AT&T aims to test AirGig paired with 5G

AT&T has initiated discussions with technology suppliers to start testing and building commercial-grade AirGig equipment.  

Project AirGig is the AT&T initiative that uses power lines to deliver superfast internet service. AirGig signals travel around or near the power lines—not through them—and they can be used practically anywhere—rural and urban areas alike—to deliver fast internet.

AT&T hasn't set a date for commercial deployment just yet. Plans call for looking at expanded field trials with its technology supplier next year.

The concept of broadband over power line service has been around for years, but AirGig is distinctly AT&T’s version of it. AT&T Labs invented low-cost plastic antennas, a radio distributed antenna system, surface wave launchers and inductive power devices to make it all work, and the company has applied for more than 500 patents for AirGig.

While the company launched a trial in Georgia with Georgia Power last year, it’s now exploring another field trial in which it will focus on aspects of surface-wave systems, which could provide “an important ingredient” in a future 5G world. AT&T figures Project AirGig and 5G have a lot of natural synergies, and it plans to test 5G paired with AirGig in the future.

RELATED: AT&T conducts trials of AirGig powerline technology with Georgia Power, international utility

Trials thus far have been encouraging, according to the telco. During the trial with Georgia Power, which used a combination of millimeter wave and LTE spectrum, they were able to deliver a fixed wireless application to a number of homes.

They didn’t see any degradation of the millimeter wave signals during rain or other weather events—something that plagued earlier millimeter wave spectrum deployments—and the system was able to deliver hundreds of megabits per second to a number of residential locations in a rural part of the state. Such speeds could eventually reach the gigabit range in commercial settings, according to AT&T.

As for ease of use, AT&T said trial participants used self-install receiver equipment that allowed them to access high-speed internet within 10 minutes.

Utilities could use AirGig technology to enhance their own offerings.

"The potential ability to also use this technology to supplement our own energy operations and controls, such as with remote weather monitoring systems, is exciting,” said Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers in a statement. “We can see something like AirGig delivering tremendous benefits in helping to solve for the digital divide in Georgia.”