How internet over power lines could be a solution for underserved communities

Thu, 2017-12-14 16:59 -- SCC Staff

Roughly 23% of people living in urban environments in the U.S. don't have access to or can't afford broadband internet, and in rural areas the number is closer to 30%, according to a report released earlier this year by the Wireless Broadband Alliance and HIS Markit, a research firm.

Council Global Lead Partner AT&T currently has two trials underway (one in Georgia and another outside the U.S.) as part of the telecom's research into providing ultra-fast internet over power lines to those areas. The abbreviated news release below explains the trials, the technology and their potential. AT&T has no deployment timeline at this point, but for those rural, urban and suburban areas lacking internet connectivity, it's certainly a story worth following. — Doug Peeples

AT&T launches Project AirGig trials to bring ultra-fast internet over power lines closer to reality

AT&T launched an international trial of its unique Project AirGig technology and has also just launched a second trial in the U.S. in Georgia.

AirGig is a first-of-its-kind system. It could one day deliver internet speeds well over 1 gigabit per second via a millimeter wave (mmWave) signal guided by power lines. We hope that one day there will be no need to build new towers or bury new cables in locations close to aerial power lines. Instead, using AirGig patented technology, we would install devices to provide high speed broadband which can be clamped on by trained electrical workers in just a few minutes.

AirGig technology embodies over a decade of research by AT&T Labs and more than 300 patents and patent applications. It also represents a potential new era in connectivity where turbocharged data speeds can be available almost everywhere in the world.

“Project AirGig is part of our ongoing effort to accelerate internet connections to a gig or more through both wired and wireless solutions,” said Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer. “But it also stands alone as a radically innovative solution to bridge the global digital divide. If these trials and our continued research and development turn out the way we intend, we’ll take a big step toward bringing hyper-fast connectivity to people everywhere.”

There are 2 trials in the current phase of the project
The first trial started earlier this fall and is with an electricity provider outside the U.S.  The second trial recently kicked off in Georgia with Georgia Power. While this trial is located in a rural area, AirGig could be deployed in many areas not served by high speed broadband today – rural, suburban, or urban.

 “AT&T has a long-history of connecting people with their world and is proud to be on the cutting-edge of innovation, now with Project AirGig trials,” said Bill Leahy, president of AT&T Georgia. “Governor Nathan  Deal and legislative leadership have worked hard to create an environment that welcomes private investment and innovation, and the significant decision to conduct our national AirGig trial in Georgia is evidence of that. We appreciate our collaboration with Georgia Power and look forward to yet another way to deliver gigabit internet connections to consumers.”

As we learn from these trials and continue to develop this technology, we’ll look at expanding more advanced technology trials in other locations.

While there’s no timeline yet for commercial deployment, we’re encouraged and excited by what we’ve seen so far. Innovation is never a straight path. But, these trials point the way forward to a potential future where the benefits of ultra-fast internet are available to almost everyone.