In another development with potential implications for the global wireless market, AT&T announced plans on Tuesday to launch a new, gigabit-speed broadband service that would operate in a cost-effective manner through power lines deployed throughout the U.S. and abroad. Dubbed “Project AirGig,” AT&T’s new service would utilize low-cost plastic antennas that would be installed along power lines to transmit wireless signals at gigabit speeds at any location where the power lines run. Unlike previous attempts at “broadband-over-power line” service that were plagued by slow transmission speeds and other technical issues, AT&T’s service would run along (and not through) power lines and would create an electromagnetic field along the lines that would both power and guide the signals.
While emphasizing that Project AirGig “is still very much in the experimentation phase,” AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Donovan told reporters that the technology “has the opportunity to give us some performance and economics that isn’t on the horizon right now.” As he touted Project AirGig’s potential in expanding high-speed wireless broadband access to rural and other hard-to-reach areas, Donavan affirmed that the system will be flexible enough to use licensed and unlicensed spectrum in low and high frequency bands to support a variety of fourth-generation LTE, fifth-generation (5G) wireless and fixed wireless services. Noting that “our researchers are addressing the challenges that hampered similar approaches a decade ago,” Donovan said, “the results we have seen from our outdoor labs testing have been encouraging, especially as you think about where we’re heading in a 5G world.”
AT&T is expected to commence field trials of the technology sometime next year, with an eye toward commercial deployment starting in 2020. Anticipating that Project AirGig will enable AT&T to expand broadband connectivity “well beyond our current broadband footprint,” Donovan proclaimed that Project AirGig “has tremendous potential to transform Internet access globally.”