Project AirGig – utilizing patented technology to transmit data at fiber-like speeds over power lines – is coming closer to reality at AT&T with “at least” two trials coming this fall. Meanwhile, the communications will continue expanding its fiber network in the Triangle and elsewhere while also testing next-generation wireless broadband (5G).

“Yes, our AT&T Fiber expansion continues in the Triangle and across NC,” an AT&T spokesperson tells WRAL TechWire.

That’s the first question that came to mind after AT&T disclosed earlier Tuesday that it “is in advanced discussions with power companies and others to trial Project AirGig in at least two locations by this fall.”

AirGig was announced last September, a technology through which data is transmitted over powerlines and then distributed via antennas mounted on utility poles. One of the trial locations will be in the U.S., the company noted.

“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 the company’s 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.”

One location will be in the United States with others to be determined in the coming months.

Tests of so-called broadband-over-power lines (BPL) has been tested with “positive results.” The testing led to additional innovations such as the Radio Distributed Antenna System (RDAS).

AT&T says it now has “more than 200 patents and patent applications for Project AirGig,” including “low-cost plastic antennas, the Radio Distributed Antenna System (RDAS), mmWave surface wave launchers [to transmit over powerlines] and inductive power devices.”

These also can handle mobile data, which AT&T says means “no need to build new towers. No need to bury new cables in the ground.”

Meanwhile, AT&T continues to push ahead with 5G, which would improve speeds drastically over current 4G networks.

Meshing technologies

The multiple developments reflect AT&T’s strategy to mesh numerous technologies through software to build a wider capability of delivering data where and how customers want it.

“There’s no one access technology to connect everyone,” AT&T’s Josh Gelinas tells WTW.

“Project AirGig can empower and extend other access technologies, like 4G-LTE and future 5G. Our software-driven network architecture provides an ideal framework to integrate optical, copper, wireless, and new technologies such as Project AirGig into a comprehensive framework, where the whole is even bigger and better than the sum of the parts.”

AT&T also sees AirGig as a means to parallel 5G developments.

“Project AirGig can work with small cells and distributed antenna systems and can support multi-gigabit speeds, which is a good fit with future 5G capabilities,” he explains.”We believe future 5G service will be one of the potential uses for Project AirGig. Project AirGig can work with small cells and distributed antenna systems and can support multi-gigabit speeds, which is a good fit with future 5G capabilities.”

Add in “more than 1 million miles” of fiber and AT&T is positioned “to deliver faster wired and wireless speeds to more locations.”

Mushrooming demand

AT&T’s strategy is designed to help cope with exploding demand for high-quality data that customers want delivered fast.

“Since 2007, data usage has increased 250,000% with the rise of 4K mobile video, virtual reality, smart cities, IoT devices, and more,” Gelinas explains.

Power grid benefits

AT&T also expects power companies to benefit from AirGig developments by supporting smartgrid technologies including:

  • meter, appliance and usage control systems
  • early detection of powerline integrity issues

Watch an explanatory video about Project AirGig at: