Telecom giant AT&T has started testing a new internet distribution service in a small area within the state of Georgia and in an unnamed location overseas. Called Project AirGig, it uses pre-existing power lines to deliver high-speed connections to customers.
AirGig, a first-of-its-kind system that AT&T unveiled last year, could eventually deliver speeds of well over 1 gigabit per second via a millimeter wave (mmWave) sent along power lines—not through them—using plastic antennae. As the infrastructure is already in place, there would be no need to build new towers or lay new cables.
The trials are being carried out in rural areas where standard connections can be spotty at best, but the company said it could potentially be used in suburbs and cities, too. Best of all, trained engineers could install the antennae in just a few minutes.
“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 didn’t say where other trials might take place, but it did talk about expanding the current tests in the near future. These will evaluate how the technology holds up during extreme weather conditions such as snow, heavy rain, and high winds.
There's no word on when Project AirGig might get a wider rollout. There are several hurdles to overcome before that happens, such as reaching agreements with hundreds of energy companies to use their power lines.