AT&T ready to trial latest attempt at pumping internet over power lines

Project AirGig looks to solve bandwidth conundrum in the sticks

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AT&T says it is set to begin public trials of a project to backhaul high-speed mobile internet over power lines.

These power lines will carry internet traffic to and from cell towers so the masts can beam 4G/LTE and 5G coverage to nearby phones. That's particularly useful for people out in the countryside, and more convenient than ripping up sidewalks and tunnels to lay fiber to antennas. Network traffic follows the lines of electricity.

The US telco behemoth says it will run two trials of test networks (one in the US and one outside) later this year: specifically, they will push data over power lines, then offer last-mile service via wireless broadband. AT&T believes that, if successful, its so-called Project AirGig will allow it to run high-speed internet service – "multi-gigabit" speeds – throughout the US at a much lower cost.

This concept isn't particularly new. AT&T and other telcos have for more than a decade been attempting to run data services over conventional power lines without much success, in part due to speed limitations.

With this most recent effort, it is hoped that the addition of the low-cost plastic wireless transmitters will finally allow for a fast and reliable BPL system capable of gigabit speeds.

"Project AirGig represents a key invention in our 5G Evolution approach," boasts AT&T Labs president and CTO Andre Fuetsch.

"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."

This, AT&T believes, will allow remote and rural areas such as farming communities and mountain towns to receive high-speed broadband service – something that had previously been too expensive for most telcos due to the high costs of running and maintaining fiber lines to service relatively few customers. ®

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