AT&T announces Project AirGig

AT&T is set to deliver low cost, ultra-fast multi-gigabit per second wireless internet speeds over power lines. It's being called Project AirGig and it is another way AT&T is showing its commitment to customers now and into the future.

Over the last decade, this technology was designed, built and tested by the inventors in AT&T Labs, and there are more than 100 patents or patent applications supporting this new technology and other access technologies. Project AirGig has 5 distinct characteristics: - Is easier to deploy than fiber because it runs over license-free spectrum (no need for cables or new towers) - Experimenting with multiple ways to send a modulated radio signal around or near medium-voltage power lines without the need for electrical connections - Uses newly designed antennas to create an electromagnetic field that speeds and guides waves along the power line - Transfers through newly designed antennas and devices greatly reducing hardware and deployment costs - Leverages existing power line infrastructure to help solve connectivity for rural and global markets

Initial and ongoing testing at AT&T outdoor facilities has been positive. AT&T expects to kick off the first field trials in 2017. “Project AirGig has tremendous potential to transform internet access globally – well beyond our current broadband footprint and not just in the United States,” said John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer and Group President, Technology and Operations, AT&T. “The results we’ve seen from our outdoor labs testing have been encouraging, especially as you think about where we’re heading in a 5G world. To that end, we’re looking at the right global location to trial this new technology next year.”

As part of Project AirGig, AT&T Labs invented low-cost plastic antennas and devices located along the power line to regenerate millimeter wave (mmWave) signals that can be used for 4G LTE and 5G multi-gigabit mobile and fixed deployments. These patent-pending devices can mean low hardware and deployment costs while maintaining the highest signal quality. We think we’ve come up with an approach that we believe will be unique in our industry. Project AirGig can also be a benefit to utility companies. It could enable and expand a variety of smart-grid applications. It could also allow for early detection of line integrity issues, such as encroaching tree branches. Power companies could use it to pinpoint specific locations, down to the line segment, where proactive maintenance could prevent problems. It could also support utility companies’ meter, appliance and usage control systems. It has the potential to be a win for our customers and a win for the utility companies.

“We believe Project AirGig has the potential to quickly bring connectivity to all parts of the world. Our researchers are addressing the challenges that hampered similar approaches a decade ago, such as megabit per second speeds and high deployment costs,” said Donovan. “Project AirGig is still very much in the experimentation phase. That said, I’m excited about what AT&T Labs’ engineers have developed to date. Our overall access approach, in conjunction with our software-defined network architecture, is unmatched in its ability to usher in connected experiences like augmented reality, virtual reality, self-driving cars, telemedicine and 4K mobile video. Big urban city. Small rural town. Around the world.”

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