AT&T has entered “advanced discussions” with electric utilities to test its Project AirGig wireless technology in two places by the fourth quarter, the telco said in a press release. The high-speed broadband technology relies on antennas placed on power lines to transmit wireless signals. One of the locations will be in the US. The others will be determined in the coming months, according to the company.
AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Donovan told USA Today that an announcement about the power companies involved would come soon, in a matter of “days to weeks.” It will likely be in the south to avoid the variable of winter, Donovan added.
AT&T has said that Project Airgig as a new way to deliver fast Internet service with high-speed connections at a lower cost by delivering over (but not through) existing power lines. The infrastructure associated with it is cheaper and easier to deploy than fiber, the company says. Whereas fiber internet requires digging up dirt to run wires, Airgig delivers through relatively inexpensive plastic antennas on top of power lines.
Preliminary Model of AirGig Antenna- side view, Photo Courtesy of AT&T
“We are looking forward to begin testing the possibilities of AT&T Labs’ invention for customers and utility companies,” said Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and chief technology officer. “AT&T is focused on delivering a gigabit-per-second speed everywhere we can with our wired and wireless technologies. Project AirGig represents a key invention in our 5G Evolution approach. AT&T Labs is ‘writing the textbook’ for a new technology approach that has the potential to deliver benefits to utility companies and bring this multi-gigabit, low-cost internet connectivity anywhere there are power lines – big urban market, small rural town, globally.”
AT&T says it has been working on the technology for more than 10 years and has more than 200 patents associated with it. The potential that other companies would start sniffing around the patents prompted the public disclosure in September, Donovan said at the time.
“AT&T Labs engineers and scientists invented low-cost plastic antennas, a Radio Distributed Antenna System (RDAS), mmWave surface wave launchers and inductive power devices,” the press release noted.