Project AirGig is a version of powerline networking, but unlike earlier technologies, signals won’t travel within the copper or glass cables. Rather, a series of what AT&T describes as inexpensive, plastic antennas and other devices will transmit millimeter wave (mmWave) signals around or near medium voltage power lines. With no electrical connection, the waves “cling” to existing power lines and can deliver 4G LTE and 5G multi-gigabit service to fixed and mobile sites, the company says.
With AirGig, telecommunications and utility companies won’t need to build new towers or bury new cable underground. You won’t need a new cable or antenna affixed to your home or office, either. With low deployment costs and minimal costs for hardware, AT&T says it can build out quickly once the technology is fully developed and tested. AT&T has more than 100 patents either published or pending for the new technology.
“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.”
“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,” Donovan continued.
You won’t see AirGig as a signup option for business or home internet service for at least a few years. The first test outside AT&T’s facilities won’t start until an unspecified time (and at an unspecified location) in 2017.