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AT&T Expands Project AirGig Trials 

By AT&T Team

February 1, 2017

AT&T is in advanced discussions with power companies and others to trial Project AirGig in at least two locations by this fall. One location will be in the United States with others to be determined in the coming months.

AT&T has experimented with this unique, patented broadband-over-power lines (BPL) technology at our outdoor facility for some time with positive results. These results led to our development of new innovations like the Radio Distributed Antenna System (RDAS).

“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.”

In the last several years, we’ve seen staggering usage growth on our wireless network – data has increased about 250,000% since 2007, and the majority of that traffic is video. This trend is not going to stop, with the rise of 4K mobile video streaming, augmented and virtual reality, smart homes and cities, autonomous vehicles and more. And we’re working to provide connectivity everywhere, so our customers can enjoy these technologies seamlessly, wherever they are.

Early this year, we provided an outlook on our 5G Evolution and other initiatives to provide ultra-fast Internet access. We’re working to develop and enhance several access technologies.

Project AirGig Progress

More than 10 years ago, some AT&T Labs engineers worked on earlier experiments to deliver BPL. Back then, broadband merely meant megabit speeds. The technology worked well, but couldn’t keep up with the move to higher speeds.

So, our engineers shifted their focus from BPL to millimeter wave (mmWave) technology, and became curious about combining mmWave and powerlines. No one in the industry had connected these technologies together yet.

Some of the first experiments involved transmitting data signals using funnels from a local auto parts store covered with aluminum foil, placed next to unenergized power cables. These tests produced unexpected positive results, creating the foundation of Project AirGig’s development – transporting mmWaves over powerlines.

Now, we have more than 200 patents and patent applications for Project AirGig. 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 RDAS will reconstruct signals for multi-gigabit mobile and fixed deployments. A typical DAS carries cellular signals throughout buildings and stadiums, using fiber and/or coaxial cables to transmit analog signals.

With the RDAS, we found a system design to effectively deliver not just broadband, but also mobile traffic. The mmWave surface wave launchers and inductive power devices can power themselves without a direct electrical connection. These devices create a multi-gigabit signal that travels along or near the wire – not through it. This signal means connected experiences become an everyday reality for people – regardless of location.

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