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  1. Technology
November 22, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

By Siobhan Kennedy

Last week saw a flurry of announcements in the Digital Subscriber Line space, with vendors tripping over themselves to highlight the potential benefits – high-speed Net access, better quality voice over IP, video streaming – the technology can bring. Both PC giants Dell Computer Corp and Compaq Computer Corp used the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas to announce PCs with integrated DSL modems and MCI WorldCom-owned ISP UUNet last week said it would roll out consumer DSL services by the end of the year. But this is just the beginning of what’s expected to be a steady stream of related announcements over the next couple of months. But before users throw away their old modems and rush out to upgrade to the latest technology it’s worth considering a few points. On the plus side, DSL modems offer much faster speeds than the current 56K standards; typically they download data 25 times faster than the equivalent dial-up device. But the problem is that there are no standards for DSL modems at present, and each service provider’s implementation of the technology is different, so the modems won’t work on any DSL network. To make matters worse, there are only a handful of ISPs and service providers that offer a DSL service anyway; notably US West, Bell Atlantic and UUNet. To get over the incompatibility problems, the ITU has recently endorsed a new, standard version of ADSL called G.Lite. G.Lite-based modems will also be easier and cheaper to install than earlier ADSL modems, since they do not require that a separate voice/data splitter be installed. But those networks are still a long way in the offing and the general consensus is that telecoms providers won’t begin to roll out services until the ITU has ratified the G.Lite standard, some time next year. So be aware of vendors showing off ADSL-compliant products. If it’s a PC, as in Compaq’s case, the chances are the modem’s G.Lite compliant so you won’t be able to use the technology until 1999. If it’s ADSL compliant, as in Dell’s case, you can use the modem now but only on certain networks. Provided you can live without the additional speed now, waiting until next year for G.Lite- compliant modems could be the safest bet. That way, because it’s a standard, users can rest assured that their modem will work with all telecoms providers’ DSL Access Multiplexers (DSLAMs). So even though G.Lite works at slower speeds than today’s ADSL (1.5Mbps compared to 8Mbps), the interoperability more than compensates for G.Lite’s slower speed.

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