AT&T is moving forward with Project AirGig and is talking with power companies about testing the technology in at least two markets by this fall. At least one of those markets will be in the U.S., the telco said. The technology is being eyed as a possible key element to the company’s 5G deployment because it could conceivably carry high bandwidth traffic at multi-gigabit speeds.
AT&T Labs first unveiled Project AirGig last September and said the technology will allow the company to transmit wireless signals over power lines rather than using fiber. Those initial AirGig experiments led to the development of a new technology called radio distributed antenna system (RDAS), which AT&T said could potentially deliver low-cost broadband connectivity anywhere there are power lines, including small towns and urban markets. Plus, AT&T can leverage the technology outside the U.S. as well.
The field trials will look at how Project AirGig works in conjunction with smart grid technologies and also will see how it performs during inclement weather like rain, snow, and high winds. The tests will also determine how expensive it is to deploy the technology.
Project AirGig Incorporates mmWave
AT&T said the AirGig project initially started as a broadband-over-power-line experiment but shifted to include millimeter wave (mmWave) technology. Basically, the technology works by using RDAS to reconstruct signals from multi-gigabit mobile and fixed deployments. Those data signals are then transmitted using mmWave over power lines. The mmWave surface wave launchers and inductive power devices can create a multi-gigabit signal that travels along or near the power line, but not through it.
The technology is relatively easy to deploy because the inductive devices do not require a direct electrical connection, and since the technology uses existing power lines, it doesn’t require a cell tower or a fiber connection, according to AT&T.
The company now has 200 patents and patent applications related to AirGig.
In a statement, Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO, said that Project AirGig is a key part of 5G and could help provide connectivity for streaming video, autonomous cars, and augmented and virtual reality.