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AT&T plans to beam wireless broadband across the power network
The electrical grid has been one of the last century’s major breakthroughs in terms of powering our world and now, AT&T wants to piggyback on this tremendous accomplishment to help address this century’s need for high-speed Internet access.
On Tuesday, the research division of the telecommunications giant revealed Project AirGig, a plan to shoot multi-gigabit wireless broadband along power lines. AT&T plans to conduct initial field tests of this experimental technology in 2017.
It’s not the first time somebody attempts to use power lines for communication purposes, but previous approaches eventually failed due to high deployment costs and slow speeds.
AT&T’s effort is a bit different, though. Project AirGig seeks to beam wireless signals near the path of power lines, making your Internet access synonymous to electricity, assuming the project goes through. Project AirGig will use plastic antennas installed at the top of utility poles, where an electromagnetic field will be generated to produce ultra high-speed waves along the path of power grids. Basically, each utility pole will act as a relay station, allowing network access far and wide, and without the need to install more cables.
Because the antennas will be made of low-cost plastic and rather simple, AT&T hopes to avoid the high hardware and deployment costs that plagued previous attempts to deliver Internet access to underserved communities and remote areas.
Whether AT&T’s latest plan is bound to succeed remains to be seen as unexpected roadblocks are sure to come its way. For now, the company says it’s only experimenting with it, and any kind of commercial deployment could take years. That said, AT&T has a decade of research on the project that resulted in about a hundred patents, which means Project AirGig might be more than feel-good vaporware.
More details about Project AirGig are available on AT&T’s blog. Let us know your thoughts!