AT&T is exploring the use of power lines for wireless Internet

AT&T has started in 2016 Project AirGig that could one day deliver low-cost, multi-gigabit wireless Internet speeds using power lines.

This technology will be easier to deploy than fiber, can run over license-free spectrum and can deliver ultra-fast wireless connectivity to any home or handheld wireless device.

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The kick off the first field trials is expected in 2017. AT&T has more than 100 patents or patent applications supporting this new technology and other access technologies. There’s no direct electrical connection to the power line required and it has the potential of multi-gigabit speeds in urban, rural and underserved parts of the world.

Project AirGig delivers this last-mile access without any new fiber-to-the-home and it is flexible enough to be configured with small cells or distributed antenna systems. No need to build new towers. No need to bury new cables in the ground.

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.

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.

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