AT&T says it wants to expand trials of AirGig, its experimental broadband-over-power-line technology, to more markets. So far the company has launched two trials of the technology – one with an electricity provider outside the United States and one in rural Georgia with Georgia Power.
AirGig is based on a new technology called radio distributed antenna system (RDAS). AT&T Labs has 300 patents and pending patents on the technology. RDAS reconstructs signals from multi-gigabit mobile and fixed deployments, and then transmits those using millimeter wave (mmWave) over power lines.
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 believes RDAS will make it unnecessary to build new towers or bury new cables in areas where power lines exist. In a statement, Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO, called the technology “radically innovative.”
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But there are some drawbacks, most notably working with power companies. “Power companies don’t just let anyone go up on their power lines and install equipment, said Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics, “It’s a safety issue. And they don’t want to jeopardize delivering power to their customers.”
That may be the reason why it’s taken AT&T so long to launch its first AirGig trials. The company announced in January that it was planning the trials, but the first trial, which is with an electricity provider outside the U.S., was just launched earlier this fall. The second trial with Georgia Power has just started.
Nevertheless, Entner said that the technology, if it can be deployed, is groundbreaking. “The logic of running it on power lines is genius,” he said.