So Bert has expressed major concerns about the backhaul networks needed to
deliver wireless broadband. He believes it will still require fiber to the
neighborhood, which only exists in telco overbuilds that offer FTTH services.
So Rush Limbaugh has been all over the Net Neutrality story today, and started
talking about the fact that AT&T is conducting trials with power companies to
deliver gigabit broadband over power lines. My immediate reaction was that he
did not know what he was talking about; I thought he was talking about a
technology that has basically gone nowhere - Broadband over Power Lines or BPL.
So I searched to find out if he was blowing smoke, and low and behold, I
discovered this Ars Technica article from last January...
AT&T’s multi-gigabit wireless over power lines heading to trials this year
Project AirGig will get first trials this fall, in US and abroad.
Jon Brodkin - 1/31/2017, 10:50 AM
Enlarge / Preliminary version of AT&T's Project AirGig antennas.
AT&T says it is "in advanced discussions" with power companies to start trials
of a new broadband technology in at least two locations by this fall.
This is an update on the Project AirGig that AT&T announced in September 2016.
AirGig is a wireless technology even though it depends on the presence of power
lines. Antennas that are placed on utility poles send wireless signals to each
other; AT&T says the power lines "serve as a guide for the signals," ensuring
they reach their destination. AT&T says the wireless signals could be used to
deliver multi-gigabit Internet speeds for either smartphone data or home
Trial locations have not yet been announced, but today's announcement says,
"One location will be in the United States with others to be determined in the
coming months." There's also no word on when commercial deployment might begin,
but AT&T seems to be excited about the project.
"Future field trials will demonstrate how Project AirGig works to support power
companies’ smart grid technologies, such as meter, appliance, and usage control
systems and early detection of powerline integrity issues," AT&T said. "The
trials will also evaluate the technology during inclement weather, such as
rain, snow, and high winds. Importantly, we can more precisely determine the
cost of deployment while maintaining the highest signal quality for a
customer." AirGig devices use inductive power and don't require a direct
It's not clear whether any individual customers will get AirGig service in the
trials this year. We asked AT&T, and the company said, "that's among the
details we’re working out for the first trials."
Though AT&T has made fiber-to-the-premises available to nearly 4 million
customer locations nationwide, the company's old copper networks haven't been
upgraded in a lot of areas, leaving many customers with painfully slow speeds
or no wired broadband at all. AT&T doesn't seem to be in any rush to help all
of these customers access modern Internet speeds, but it's also testing a
couple of technologies in addition to AirGig that might help rural areas. AT&T
provided very short updates on those projects today.
One such technology is G.fast, a new version of DSL that greatly increases
speeds over copper lines. "Based on the learnings of a G.fast trial at a
multifamily property in Minneapolis, we plan to make the technology available
at additional locations beginning mid-2017," AT&T said. G.fast can offer
fiber-like speeds but those speeds degrade over distance, just like traditional
DSL, so in many areas, AT&T would need to bring fiber closer to homes to deploy
AT&T is also testing a home wireless Internet service for rural areas. "In
2016, we began trialling a Fixed Wireless Internet (FWI) service in several
states on our path to expand access to locations with slow or no Internet
connectivity—primarily in rural areas—as part of our participation in the FCC
Connect America Fund (CAF)," AT&T said today. "We plan to begin offering FWI in
areas where we accepted CAF support in mid-2017, reaching over 400,000
locations by the end of this year. Ultimately we plan to expand internet access
to more than 1.1 million locations across 18 states by the end of 2020."