AT&T Claims 'Breakthrough' With New Power Line Delivery Tech for 4G, 5G

Surprise! AT&T says it has a new, patented way to use power lines to deliver "multi-gigabit speeds" wirelessly to the home.

John Donovan, chief strategy officer at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), introduced "Project AirGig" on Tuesday afternoon. The technology, which AT&T already has patents on, wirelessly rides alongside -- not inside -- medium voltage power lines and uses newly designed "low-cost" plastic antennas, to deliver 4G or 5G connections into the home. Because of the patented nature of the technology, AT&T didn't go into great detail on the technology, but Donovan stressed it as a "breakthrough" technology.

Older readers may remember that broadband power line (BPL) power line technology was a hot topic years ago, but it turned out to be a costly and expensive disappointment. This is not that, Donovan stresses. (See Grids Get Smart With BPL.)

"It doesn't work through the power lines, it's a wireless technology running over the power lines," Donovan says. He adds that this means that it can be used in licensed and unlicensed radio and "high-band and low-band spectrum." Donovan says that AT&T could use the technology to deliver both 4G and 5G signals to devices in the home.

AT&T has already been testing the technology with streaming data to 4K TVs in the lab. "We're looking for the right global location to trial this thing," Donovan said. Trials are expected to start next year.

See a video from AT&T for more:

That doesn't mean that AT&T is looking at smooth sailing for Project AirGig. Donovan says the carrier will have to strike deals with local utilities around deployments and build up a vendor ecosystem.

"I wouldn't call it firmly on the roadmap," Donovan said.

Nonetheless, he said on the call Tuesday that he expects the deployment of AirGig technology to track about a year behind 5G deployments, so likely 2019 for fixed applications and 2020 for mobile uses.

If AT&T can get this technology off the ground in a cost-effective manner, it could be one of the answers as to how to bring broadband services to underserved countries and rural areas in the US: using existing power line infrastructure.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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lonelyposter 12/13/2017 | 8:20:03 PM
An extension or Goubau or E-line? The advertisement indicates that it is some kind of variant of Goubau lines, developed in the 60's, and extended amazingingly as "E-lines" by these folks:


It's an amazing technology and why wouldn't we leverage it?  It would seem a waste of our future to not be sending high speed data along every conductor possible.
DanJones 9/23/2016 | 12:59:21 PM
Re: mm wave I'm starting to think the dirty little secret of 5G is all in the zoning rights. Will cities baulk at 1000s of new tiny antennas? Will utilities want mega bucks to be the ride along for 5G signals? Stay tuned I guess!
DanJones 9/23/2016 | 12:55:23 PM
Re: Antenna Placement Not happening!
joseph.burdick 9/22/2016 | 5:25:04 PM
mm wave The video mentions "millimeter wave".  This looks a lot like Facebook's Terragraph design to have a 60 GHz backhaul path.  Mix that with LTE/5G small cells on selectect poles and you have a "breakthrough".  The powerline seems to serve two functions, line of sight, and power for the equipment.  AT&T probably already has pole attachement rights for that particular pole.  The irony in the video is delivering "oxygen" to customers...while actual oxygen is the primary attenuation source in mm wave.  I'm amused, but I think the pushback from power companies to put this equipment in the medium voltage space will be problematic.
tlauterjung 9/22/2016 | 4:35:46 PM
Antenna Placement So, what about communities that have all underground utilities, this sounds like they would need to place some sort of above ground infrastructure. Should be interesting.
billsblots 9/22/2016 | 4:19:07 PM
The Plastics Interesting, normally "plastic" and "antenna" is a non-starter.  Will be interesting to see.
DanJones 9/21/2016 | 1:20:38 PM
Re: Don't understand the secrecy Fair enough. There's many patents involved in this BTW, according to Donovan.
mrblobby 9/21/2016 | 1:03:59 PM
Re: Don't understand the secrecy Well what can I say, other than the fact that The Register has a lot more useful information, and in fact has a link to the patent in question. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/09/21/att_tries_again_with_bpl_just_dont_call_it_bpl_please/
DanJones 9/21/2016 | 12:16:53 PM
Re: Don't understand the secrecy They said that's why the announcement was so sudden, the separate patents were becoming numerous enough that it was going to become obvious.
mrblobby 9/21/2016 | 10:37:38 AM
Don't understand the secrecy If the technology is really patented then it should already be out in the open, no?
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