AT&T Project AirGig

AirGig: What It Is and How Far It’s Come

    AirGig: What It Is and How Far It’s Come

    As one of the biggest carriers in the U.S., AT&T is no stranger to pushing the boundaries on new technologies that provide more expansive and faster internet access for consumers. In one of their latest innovative projects, they introduced AirGig, a broadband internet service that takes advantage of existing electrical infrastructure.

    Project AirGig has been described by AT&T as a transformative project that uses license free spectrum and power lines to provide urban, suburban, and rural markets with multi-gigabit ultra-broadband internet service. The technology uses the existing wooden telephone poles that serve utility and telecom companies as a physical location to place radios, antenna, and backhaul equipment that tap into the millimeter wave spectrum to provide high-capacity broadband. License free spectrum is available on a small number of frequency bands, with the 24 GHz and 60 GHz bands being most suitable for the particular application.

    The AirGig antenna plays a big role in how the solution works, using twelve 60 GHz antennas with a fixed 30-degree beam width to cover an entire 360-degree area. The full 14 GHz of bandwidth would enable a multi-gigabit backhaul through each node, as the horn antennas are mainly designed for backhaul transport for the radio nodes. Two access antennas would beam IP traffic to homes and businesses, and can also be fixed and used as a passive wide sector antenna or an array of fixed smaller beam width antennas. Given current information, it is not known if there are any active beam steering capabilities within the radio node. The unit would convert 48 volts of power from the telephone line to provide power to support both the radio node as well as the backhaul radio.

    Project AirGig has come a long way since it’s conception and offers the promise of a completely connected world if it is successfully implemented. President of AT&T Labs Andre Fuetsch said, “Project AirGig is part of our ongoing effort to accelerate internet connections to a gig or more through both wired and wireless solutions… 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.”

    AT&T did not disclose details of the trial outside the United States; the trial is being conducted in Georgia in a rural area to simulate the initial typical low-connectivity environment that AirGig would be particularly beneficial for.

    This technology gives AT&T the potential to drastically increase their market size and provide better service for customers across the U.S and the world. The potential of even deploying 5G radio nodes on telephone poles puts AT&T at a significant advantage above its competition until the rest of the market catches on to the idea and begins to develop their own technology.

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