AT&T is looking to deploy low-cost plastic antennas along medium-voltage power lines as a means of propagating millimeter wave (mmWave) signals that can be used for 4G LTE and 5G multi-gigabit mobile and fixed deployments.
Project AirGig, which originates out of AT&T Labs, aims to deliver ultra-fast broadband connectivity of license-free spectrum. Project AirGig is expected to enter field trials in 2017.
Significantly, 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.
The company says this makes the AirGig technology interesting as a means to deliver last-mile access without any new fiber-to-the-home. It is flexible enough to be configured with small cells or distributed antenna systems. It does not require the construction of new towers or laying new cables in the ground. Advantages include low-cost hardware, low deployment costs, and high signal quality.
AT&T points out that Project AirGig could also be a benefit to utility companies, enabling a variety of smart-grid applications.
“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.”