AT&T Lab's Project AirGig Nears First Fiedld Trials [telecom]

AT&T Labs' Project AirGig Nears First Field Trials for Ultra-Fast Wireless Broadband Over Power Lines

Urban, Rural and Underserved Parts of the World Could Benefit from AT&T's Innovative Wireless, Multi-Gigabit-Speed Internet Connectivity

Where There Are Power Lines, There Can Be Broadband

AT&T unveiled today Project AirGig, a transformative technology from AT&T Labs that could one day deliver low-cost, multi-gigabit wireless internet speeds using power lines. We're deep in the experimentation phase. This technology will be easier to deploy than fiber, can run over license-free spectrum and can deliver ultra-fast wireless connectivity to any home or handheld wireless device. We designed Project AirGig literally from the ground up to be both practical and transformational. Our initial and ongoing testing at AT&T outdoor facilities has been positive. We expect to kick off our first field trials in 2017.

formatting link


formatting link

Neal McLain

***** Moderator's Note *****

This sort of breathless, amateur-hour self-promotion by AT&T would normally merit no more than a trip to the bit-bucket. However, I'm publishing it because I want to make people think about some advice my dad gave me over fifty years ago: he said "They'll spend a million dollars to eliminate your job."

He was right. BPL is yet-another-effort to eliminate the jobs of the technicians who are paid to wire the last 100 feet of any current Internet connection method. It is designed to allow the wet dream of every monopolist in telecommunications: the provisioning of Internet (and therefore telephone) service through the post office, with customer-installable devices arriving in the mail, which require only that they be plugged into an electrical outlet.

It doesn't matter that BPL has gone through several deaths and rebirths, or that it is widely thought of to be impractical. So long as the labor costs are at stake, BPL will keep crawling out of the grave.

Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to
Neal McLain
Loading thread data ...

On 9/20/2016 11:26 PM, Neal McLain wrote: ...

This isn't BPL. It's a different meaning of "over". In AirGig's case, it's "on the same pole, above".

There are at least three distinguishing features of AirGig compared to other last-mile wireless systems. One is that it is optimized to be mounted on the top of electric poles, *in the power space* near the 15 kilovolt primaries. Which btw means that only an electrician or power-trained technician can touch it, usually a 3-man crew with thick gloves. In order to go up there, it has to have NO exposed metal. It is reportedly all plastic on the outside. There's nothing wrong with this

-- many low-cost microwave systems used by WISPs are plastic -- but it's not traditional telco style.

Number two is that in order to power it, rumor has it, they're doing some kind of hack to inductively pick up a little power off of the passing 15 kilovolt lines without actually touching them. Power lines can leak a little, after all, so they can arrange with the power company to pay for a little leakage.

Number three is that they may actually be counting on the nearby electric wire to provide some waveguide/transmission help. While millimeter wave (>30 GHz) transmissions can go a half kilometer or more even in heavy rain, they require very accurate lines of sight. AT&T is reported to have a patent on letting wire help with that, though they don't physically touch it.

It's all rather risky and I have some doubts that they'll follow through in volume. But it's not BPL, which, like Generalissimo Franco, is still dead.

***** Moderator's Note *****

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck ...

... the net effect is to remove the "home install" technician from the equation. "Requiring" an electric company lineman to mount it doesn't make up the difference: there are no connections to wire, no adjustments to check, and (most importantly) no time-consuming visits to individual residences.

It should be called Broadband Without Employees (BWE). I think Generalissimo Franco would approve.

Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to
Fred Goldstein


But it's not a duck. It's more like a platypus.

No such luck on AT&T's part. This probably still requires home installation. In most fixed broadband scenarios, the radio at the customer site has to be installed outdoors. It is possible that in some locations, the density of the access radio will be high enough to allow customers to just install it themselves, like plugging in a cell phone. But performance is a function of signal strength and you get a much stronger signal outdoors, plus a fixed installation can use a directional gain antenna. If access is done on millimeter wave (vs. 3.5 or 5 GHz), then it must be a highly directional fixed antenna. On lower frequencies, it will help a lot.

However, installing an antenna on a customer's house -- think "DirecTV", already in ATT's wheelhouse -- is a whole heck of a lot easier than installing fiber all the way to the house.

Reply to
Fred Goldstein

I think almost everyone would approve, if the result is cheaper and more widely available broadband in underserved rural areas.

Doubtless there were some manual switchboard operators who were upset when Strowger introduced the first automated switch over a century ago. I'm glad the Luddites didn't win then, and I hope they don't win now.

Bob Goudreau Cary, NC

Reply to
Bob Goudreau

It seems like this is a pole to pole microwave system. I wonder how this works as power lines are moved underground. I think the household drop could be replaced by on-pole or in-pedestal WiFi access points. I know there are concerns about outdoor wifi access points getting to indoor computers.

We live in a house built in 1906. Right now I can see 18 access points, one of which is in our house. Looking at a city network about

70 miles south of here (
formatting link
), I see they talk about concerns with penetration to indoor computers. They offer a wifi bridge to deal with that. I wonder if there'd be enough bandwidth if all household communications were handled by a wifi access point on a pole or pedestal outside the house.

Power poles certainly have the density such that you'd only have to cover a few houses with each pole (pretty much the same as the number of power, phone, or CATV drops per pole). My current thinking is that fiber to the node makes the most sense with the "drop" from the node to the user be by wifi.


Reply to
Harold Hallikainen

I would guess that the kinds of areas where this might be used will never see their power lines go underground. And if the power lines do get buried, that would probably be seen as a great opportunity to drop fiber in the trench at the same time to avoid the need for something like this.

And there are no access points visible from my house. Totally different environments.

Few houses with each pole? I'm in an area with multiple poles between houses. Some poles would cover a single house, while most would serve none at all. And there ain't no CATV drops on any of them.

I've got doubts about whether this technology will ever become feasible. But it's obviously not even intended for the kind of environment you seem to be thinking about, where houses are less than a half-mile apart. Areas that dense are more likely to have fiber or wire strung to them.

Reply to
Matt Simpson Forums website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.