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AT&T Labs' new gigabit Wi-Fi project will piggyback on power lines

AT&T Labs' new gigabit Wi-Fi project will piggyback on power lines

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Today, AT&T Labs announced a new wireless technology called Airgig, designed to transmit data at gigabit speeds over existing power infrastructure. The system would move the data between routers at the top of utility poles, transmitting data wirelessly over the millimeter waveband, also known as "gigabit wifi." AT&T expects the first field trials of the system to begin next year.

The announcement comes after a number of major investments in millimeter wave systems. Google is actively exploring the technology as a last-mile replacement for Google Fiber, and Facebook is planning to deploy its own version of the technology in San Jose later this year. In January, Aereo founder Chet Kanojia revealed a system called Starry that would use the same technology to provide home internet at gigabit speeds.

Unlike Starry or Terragraph, AirGig is entirely linear, offering little to no redundancy if one of the links goes down. That’s a problem for millimeter waveband signals, which can be absorbed by rain or other atmospheric moisture. Airgig plans to mitigate that effect by transmitting close to the lines themselves, with wire-bound devices to regenerate the signal — but without field testing, it’s difficult to say how reliable the fix will be.