AT&T joins wireless broadband club

AT&T has decided to give point-to-point millimeter-wave wireless a try as a delivery mechanism for broadband services. The service provider has launched a trial 100-Mbps service via wireless broadband to subscribers in multiple apartment complexes in Minneapolis – a territory in which it currently doesn’t provide service.

AT&T has decided to give point-to-point millimeter-wave wireless a try as a delivery mechanism for broadband services. The service provider has launched a trial 100-Mbps service via wireless broadband to subscribers in multiple apartment complexes in Minneapolis – a territory in which it currently doesn't provide service.

The company says it plans higher-speed services, most likely a 500-Mbps offering, to the same properties in the future.

The approach sees AT&T deliver fiber-based broadband to a central location. That location is then connected to subscriber buildings using millimeter-wave links the service provider described as “multi-gigabit.” At the subscriber building, the signal is converted from wireless to a format that AT&T can transmit to individual units using the existing in-building wired network (or new wiring if necessary). Subscribers than can access the service by plugging their Wi-Fi routers into existing wall jacks.

AT&T says the approach enables them to provide services more quickly and with less disruption than would be the case with other approaches (such as running fiber to the building or individual unit).

The company is taking a similar approach to delivery of its DirecTV service. Here, AT&T's DirecTV Advantage approach uses a single satellite dish on the subscriber building to send a video signal to a centralized distribution system for the property. The strategy obviates the need for a satellite dish on every balcony.

"We're trialing the latest innovations in wireless and wired network technologies. This will make it possible for us to potentially deliver an internet connection to more locations where we have not previously been able to offer a home internet connection," said Ed Balcerzak, senior vice president, Commercial and Connected Communities, AT&T. "If successful, this will give us the ability to offer a combination of internet, DirecTV, and wireless services to apartment complexes and multifamily communities in additional metro areas."

Those potential additional markets include Boston, Denver, New Jersey, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Washington, DC, and perhaps others, the company added.

Competitor Google Fiber purchased ISP Webpass, in part because of the latter's wireless broadband expertise (see "Google Fiber closes Webpass acquisition").

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