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Back to the future: AT&T to pilot use of power lines for high-speed internet



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Jan. 05--AT&T(T) will soon test a new way to deliver high-speed internet that blends together new and old technology.
The Dallas-based telecom company will start field trials for an approach that could bring internet to anyone on the electric grid by using power lines. The technology uses low-cost plastic antennas and devices placed on power lines so that the existing infrastructure is a guide for broadband signals. The power lines don't carry the signal, and no electrical connection is needed.
The company has dubbed the effort Project AirGig.
By mid-2017, AT&T(T) hopes to have the service running in a few test cities. It has not announced the locations, though company officials say they have heard from many cities that want to be a part of a trial.
The innovation could eliminate some of the challenges and costs of expanding high-speed internet access, said Roger Entner, a telecom analyst at Recon Analytics. AT&T(T) would not have to dig trenches for fiber or seek permission to use a right of way, he said.
He called the approach a "fast and cheap and efficient way to get to customers."
"Wherever there are power cables, this is a really competitive solution," he said.
AT&T (T) is the second largest wireless carrier in the country with about 133 million wireless customers. Its fastest internet service, AT&T Fiber, is available in 46 metro areas, including Dallas-Fort Worth. AT&T(T) plans to reach at least 67 metros with the service.
The technology used with Project AirGig could boost high-speed internet access in rural areas or low-income neighborhoods. And it could boost cities' broadband capacity as video streaming, virtual reality and self-driving cars increase demand.
"What's a gamechanger is everywhere there's power, I can now give really advanced wireless service,"said John Donovan, AT&T's(T) chief strategy officer and group president of technology and operations. "What used to be uneconomical is now economical."
Donovan said it could cut AT&T's(T) setup costs by 30 to 70 percent, depending on deals with utility companies. He said it could also decrease its use of competing carriers' infrastructure for backhaul -- one piece of connectivity -- in certain states.
Donovan said ProjectAirGig could also have an upside for utility companies. It could alert them to potential problems, such as maintenance issues and tree branches on the lines. AT&T(T) could also add new "smart" capabilities, such as new meters that monitor electricity use.
He described the project as the latest milestone in the company's long history of innovation. AT&T(T) has more than 200 patents or patent applications related to the project, including plastic antennas and devices that are placed along the power line to pick up signals.
AT&T (T) has already tested the Project AirGig technology, but the field trials will help the company figure out things that are difficult to simulate, such as how the technology works when it rains or snows and how long it takes to restore service when a driver hits a utility pole, Donovan said. It's also a way to estimate the cost of deployment and the right price for customers.
"You can do it [the testing] in a lab, and you can even do it outside at a lab, but the customers are the ones who are going to tell you whether it's fast enough and if it's the right price," he said.
Donovan said he can't predict when customers may see Project AirGig in their backyards, "but the minute it goes in the field, we are going to be watching it and planning deployment."



Senior Member
I picture this system as a series of microcells transmitting  4g or 5g data and being powered inductively by the high voltage lines that they are attached to. Does anyone know anything more about it?


In the EU my cousins switched over to ISP connections provided by using the electric grid about 20 or so years ago.  Not sure if it is still being utilized today.  Note that this is different that wireless Internet.
Many ISP's today are testing high speed wireless Internet in different ways today. 
Many  ISPs now have decided today rather than push infrastructure legacy upgrades (too expensive and no ROI) they are going the route of content delivery to make more money. 
Interesting article that popped up this morning on DSL Reports dot com.
Despite No Actual 5G Standard, Intel Unveils First 5G Modem
Friday Jan 06 2017 08:30 EST
Karl Bode

Sure, there's no actual fifth generation wireless standard yet, and it may not even surface until later this year (at best). Deployments of the ultra-fast and low latency wireless tech isn't even expected to begin until 2020 (at best). But that's not apparently stopping Intel from proudly proclaiming that it's the first company in the world to unveil a new 5G modem. A company press release states that Intel's new 5G modem (pdf) features a baseband chip and a new 5G transceiver that enables both sub-6 Ghz and mmWave capabilities.

Intel says the modem also incorporates 3GPP 5G NR (new radio) technology -- including low latency frame structures, advanced channel coding and massive MIMO -- to deliver "faster connectivity and ultra-responsiveness."

Granted it's worth reiterating that this modem technically doesn't exist yet, much like the networks it will eventually operate on. Intel says the Intel 5G RFIC is expected to sample in the first half of 2017, and the modem itself is expected to sample in the second half of 2017 and move into production soon afterwards.


Senior Member
pete_c said:
In the EU my cousins switched over to ISP connections provided by using the electric grid about 20 or so years ago.  Not sure if it is still being utilized today.  Note that this is different that wireless Internet.
The technology twenty years ago transmitted data over the power lines and this does not.


Understanding Mike that is wireless technology versus power line over the grid internet.
It's a win win for utility companies that will be utilizing smart meters for electric and water.
IE: here the water meter reads now are done via RF and water meter reader can read all the meters from his truck (100 houses) in about 20 minutes; well an water rates went up some 400% in 5 years or so.


Senior Member
The ability to read meters wirelessly would be a nice side affect but the main purpose is to deliver broadband content to homes. ATT is aiming at cutting the wire nationwide and I'm guessing that it will be gsm technology that they use to deliver TV content to your home in the future.


Active Member
mikefamig said:
The ability to read meters wirelessly would be a nice side affect but the main purpose is to deliver broadband content to homes. ATT is aiming at cutting the wire nationwide and I'm guessing that it will be gsm technology that they use to deliver TV content to your home in the future.
There fixed that for you. ;-)


Senior Member
What do you mean by fixed that?  I do believe that TV will be delivered in the home via gsm in the future. That is what the OP is about.
Correction - The original post is about delivering high speed internet to the house as opposed to TV but that would make digital TV service possible too.


There is sort of a mini battle in play between different ISPs. 
That said also the ISP's have become territorially monopolistic using by political means to insure that they have the rights to being the only Internet service providers in certain areas however means.  It also has been reported that there is much cord cutting going on with the big ISPs losing millions of dollars to a la carte television.  Mean while they are trying to hold on to their customer base by bundling Internet, television and phone service and making the a la carte internet more expensive and wanting the customers to primary only use their providing Internet content.
Note too that many ISP's / telcos were provided with public money funding years ago to upgrade infrastructure which are monies they kept and never did upgrade infrastructure.  IE: Verizon upgraded their own copper to Fiber which worked for me and AT&T decided to use the Comcast coax in another subdivision rather than upgrade the pots wires in the ground. 
A bit of a tangent....
Willy Nilly Frontier is pissed off today at Verizon in some sections of the country cuz they never updated their infrastructure and basically sold an old customer DSL base to Frontier and did some creative bookkeeping to sell it which is much like GM selling it's assets in the EU via creative bookeeping (showing profits on paper but actually not so) or Fiat buying Chrysler (but it really was a gimme anyways cuz it wasn't worth anything when sold) or the selling of Yahoo.  No one wants Sears these days so they are dismantling it piece by piece to get something out of it before they go under.  What is going to happen when Amazon starts to sell automobiles? 
Personally thinking that the Internet should be free as it mostly serves up advertisements these days and is just like a radio / television broadcast medium (except two way).  Try to read a web page these days (well except for Cocoontech) without getting bar barded by advertisements. 
IE: Google was doing fiber and providing low cost internet (and television) for a bit driving down the price of competition so they went to the airwaves now for high speed radio transceivers.  Amazon is trying to provide Internet in India using Airships  radios to cover a lot of territory.  Actually too the government of India stepped in wanting to control what was free as they thought it would ding the paid for national ISPs / Telco's there.
Using electrical poles to provide a median for low cost wireless is a unique and novel idea as there is electrical poles everywhere...that said too much of the electric now is underground (so I am not sure how that will work?).
I think the same mechanisms of monopolistic means will come in to play relating to who owns the electric poles no matter how noninvasive the little plastic wireless repeaters become.  Satellite is still too slow and they are over scribing the cellular towers these days.
Personally the electrical utilities (electrical poles) will not provide or allow this mechanism to work unless they get something out of it (whether that is free transport) or some rental fees or something similar.  Unfortunately that is the world we live in today of dog eat dog ISPs.
Here have kept Direct TV for wife who is mostly a channel surfer.  I do not and have never connected the Direct TV boxes to the POTs lines or today to the internet; and will not as I do not like to watch any TV on the celluar phone or tablet (but that is me).  I personally stream movies or watch television these days from streaming services on the Internet.  There are a bunch out there and there have been now for a while.  The prices for bundled internet TV are very close to bundled ISP provided services but provides you with more of an a la carte choices.  I know I do pay more for separate DTV (no contract these days as I have used it from the beginning of DTV), Internet and VOIP telephony (Ooma) and cellular services.


Senior Member
Interesting that Frontier is backing ATT in Kentucky even though they don't operate in the area. Frontier has bought all of the wire line business in Connecticut from ATT and maybe they're considering doing the same in Kentucky. Makes me wonder if the sale had some strings attached like giving ATT access to the lines to mount the wireless system.
Sounds like the two may be working together at some level.


@Mike, here is an interesting read relating to AT&T
by Karl Bode
Thu, Feb 18th 2016 6:22am
AT&T Makes It Clear: It Bought DirecTV So It Doesn't Have To Upgrade Its Lagging Networks

When AT&T originally announced the company wanted to spend $69 billion on a satellite TV company on the eve of the cord cutting revolution, even M&A bullish Wall Street thought AT&T was a little nuts. After all, AT&T's refusal to seriously upgrade its aging DSL networks to full fiber have left it at a serious disadvantage to faster cable broadband. Given Verizon's FiOS fiber build clocked in somewhere around $24 billion, the $69 billion AT&T spent on DirecTV could have gone a long way toward bringing those customers into the modern fiber to the home era.

But AT&T has made it abundantly clear for some time that it doesn't really care about fixed-line broadband when wireless usage caps and overage fees are much more profitable. That was reiterated this week with the news that AT&T has stopped building set tops for its IPTV over U-Verse (fiber to the node) service, and is now actively pushing those customers to satellite:

    The biggest U.S. pay TV provider has stopped building U-verse set-top boxes and is nudging prospective customers toward its satellite unit, which has lower hardware and programming costs. The shift is the first stage of a plan to create a “home gateway” within three years that will consolidate all AT&T services and act as a central hub to deliver video to any device...“AT&T is going to actively get out of the U-verse business,” said Chris Ucko, an analyst with CreditSights Inc.

What's AT&T thinking? Instead of upgrading its DSL lines, the company hopes to offer customers in these un-upgraded markets a home gateway that can connect to satellite TV and AT&T wireless networks (which explains why AT&T is whining so intensely about the FCC's plan for new open set top box competition). Existing U-Verse customers will be able to connect to the devices as well, but with AT&T now pushing all new customers to DirecTV, it's not entirely clear AT&T has much of an interest in keeping these users around. But according to AT&T, this is all about meeting consumer needs:

    “To realize the many benefits of our DirecTV acquisition, we are leading our video marketing approach with DirecTV,” said Brad Burns, an AT&T spokesman. “However, our first priority is to listen to our customers and meet their needs, and if we determine a customer will be better served with the U-verse product, we offer attractive and compelling options.”

Here's the thing the press won't remember, and won't make a sexy-enough headline to warrant mention. To get into the U-Verse TV business a decade ago, AT&T and Verizon went state by state pushing TV franchise "reform" bills written by telco lobbyists and lawyers. AT&T effectively promised states that if they passed these bills they'd be awash in new television competition and lower prices. Of course real competition never came, prices went up anyway, and people started noticing that in many states these bills were little more than legislative wish lists that gutted any number of existing consumer protections.

So those awful laws remain intact, but the next-generation service AT&T promised was never actually delivered. Why? AT&T never wanted to spend the money necessary to really offer video over fiber, much less real next-generation broadband speeds. And while the company makes a lot of noise about its plans to deploy gigabit fiber, those announcements are largely theatrical in nature (focused largely on the occasional development community). In reality, AT&T's fixed-line broadband CAPEX continues to drop as lobbyists go state by state, gutting regulations so AT&T can hang up on unwanted DSL customers for good.

In short, AT&T promised a broadband and television revolution, and instead it's offering expensive, capped wireless broadband and good old satellite TV. Are we feeling the amazing merger synergies yet?