AT&T is pushing forward with its effort to bring ultra-fast wireless internet to consumers over power lines, announcing plans on Tuesday to trial the technology in at least two locations by this fall.
In a press release, AT&T reported it is in “advanced discussions” with power companies and other entities to trial Project AirGig. At least one trial will be conducted in the United States, with other locations to be determined in the coming months, the carrier indicated.
“AT&T is focused on delivering a gigabit-per-second speed everywhere we can with our wired and wireless technologies. Project AirGig represents a key invention in our 5G Evolution approach,” AT&T Labs President and CTO Andre Fuetsch said. “AT&T Labs is ‘writing the textbook’ for a new technology approach that has the potential to deliver benefits to utility companies and bring this multi-gigabit, low-cost internet connectivity anywhere there are power lines – big urban market, small rural town, globally.”
Unveiled back in September, Project AirGig aims to deliver super-fast wireless internet to handsets and home via power lines. The system will utilize low-cost plastic antennas placed along the lines to transmit wireless signals over millimeter wave spectrum (mmWave) at gigabit speeds anywhere the power lines run. The last mile will be filled in with small cells or distributed antenna systems, AT&T said previously.
AT&T said last year it was cautiously optimistic the technology could make it to commercial availability around a 2020 timeframe. And Tuesday’s announcement indicates work is well underway.
More than 10 years ago, AT&T said experiments with broadband-over-power lines (BPL) technology yielded positive results, but the carrier found the technology couldn’t keep up with the demand for higher speeds. So, AT&T said its engineers turned to mmWave technology and began experiments with transporting mmWaves over power lines.
The carrier said it now has more than 200 patents and patent applications for Project AirGig. Those include the aforementioned plastic antennas, a Radio Distributed Antenna System (RDAS), mmWave surface wave launchers, and inductive power devices. According to AT&T, while a typical DAS can transmit cellular signals using analog signals, the RDAS supports both broadband and mobile traffic, and “will reconstruct signals for multi-gigabit mobile and fixed deployments.”
AT&T said future field trials of the technology will demonstrate how Project AirGig can support power companies’ smart grid technologies, such as meter, appliance and usage control systems, and early detection of power line integrity issues. The trials will also evaluate the technology during inclement weather, such as rain, snow, and high winds. Additionally, AT&T said the trials will help it determine the cost of deployment for Project AirGig.
Filed Under: Infrastructure