AT&T on Tuesday unveiled a new wireless technology that it believes could one day be used to deliver low-cost, multi-gigabit wireless Internet to customers around the globe.
Project AirGig, for which the telecom has more than 100 patents or patent pending applications for, was designed from the ground up by AT&T Labs to transform Internet access globally. The project uses low-cost plastic antennas and devices mounted on existing power line poles to regenerate millimeter wave signals (sometimes called gigabit Wi-Fi) as they traverse the lines that can be used for 4G LTE and 5G multi-gigabit mobile and fixed deployments.
Millimeter wave technology isn’t exclusive to AT&T. Google, for example, is exploring it as a last-mile replacement for Google Fiber while Facebook is aiming to deploy its own solution in San Jose later this year.
As The Verge notes, however, AirGig sounds like an entirely linear application with no redundancy in place should one of the antennas fail. What’s more, millimeter signals can be impacted by moisture and rain although AT&T hopes to lessen the impact by transmitting them around or near medium-voltage power lines.
The telecom points out that there is no direct electrical connection to the power line that needs to be made and because it uses existing infrastructure, there’s no need to build new towers.
AT&T says initial and ongoing testing at its outdoor facilities has been positive and that they plan to run their first field trials sometime next year.