AT&T said Tuesday it will begin testing a gigabit Wi-Fi service that piggybacks on power lines. Dubbed Project AirGig, the idea is to use existing infrastructure from traditional power lines to deliver ultra high-speed internet to more people, more quickly.
The technology uses plastic antennas placed at the top of utility poles. These antennas create an electromagnetic field that speeds and guides millimeter waves along the power lines -- not through them.
AT&T says the technology is easier to deploy than fiber because it runs over over license-free spectrum and does not require the burying of cables or the construction of new towers. The antennas are also made from low-cost plastic, which would reduce hardware and deployment costs and potentially expand internet access in underserved areas.
AT&T says it's "deep in the experimentation phase" and is currently scouting locations to begin trials on the new technology next year.
"Project AirGig has tremendous potential to transform internet access globally - well beyond our current broadband footprint and not just in the United States," said John Donovan, chief strategy officer at AT&T. "The results we've seen from our outdoor labs testing have been encouraging, especially as you think about where we're heading in a 5G world."