It May be Ready for AARP Membership, but DSL's Productive Life Continues

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After the invention of the automobile, horses roamed the streets and pulled carts for years. Sailing vessels showed the same resiliency after the introduction of steam-powered ships. Those are far more picturesque examples of the situation with digital subscriber line (DSL). Though the copper technology has been bypassed by coaxial cable, fiber and wireless approaches, it gamely marches on.


Indeed, the technology is adjusting to the new realities. Lightreading says that at the Broadband World Forum 2010 in Paris, Ikanos Communications displayed products branded as G.vector, which reach the company said reaches speeds of more than 100 Megabits per second (Mbps). The story says Nokia Siemens Networks has sped signals to 825 Mbps over 400 meters of bonded (two joined pairs) copper lines. It also has reached 750 Mbps over 500 meters using a technique called Phantom DSL. The technique, which isn't unique to NSN, involves creating a third bonded pair, though the story doesn't say how.


ASSIA used the show to introduce Expresse Release 2.1. The company, which offers dynamic spectrum-management tools for DSL networks, said that the new release reduces calls, dispatches and churn by 30 percent to 60 percent and increases speed and service reach by 40 percent. The company also announced that it had secured $20.8 million in funding. New investors are Telefonica, AT&T and Sandalwood Partners, the company said.


Not all of the news is good for DSL. Of course, it figures that there would be some sour notes: Despite efforts to prop it up with innovative ways of squeezing every last bit through the pipe, it is a technology on the way out. DSL Reports says Verizon lost 165,000 DSL subscribers during the quarter. The carrier, of course, is hyping its FiOS fiber approach. That platform added 226,000 subscribers to give it a net gain of 61,000 broadband subscribers. The story points out that the carrier didn't say how many of those who quit the company's DSL services switched to FiOS.


USA Today reports on the plight of DSL as seen by Stefan Anninger, the new cable and satellite analyst for Credit Suisse. He says that DSL's portion of the broadband pie, which he puts at 30 percent, will shrink to half that by 2015. The fatal flaw, the story paraphrases Anniger as saying, is lack of speed:

The problem for DSL, Anninger says, is that providers transmit data at only about 4 megabits per second. That can handle most of today's tasks, including videoconferencing. But by 2015, most broadband subscribers will want at least 7 mbps-with many demanding much more-to serve homes where different people simultaneously use the Internet to watch videos, stream audio, make phone calls, download files and surf.

He says that technology improvements will push DSL to about 18 Mbps in five years, but cable at that point will be at 200 Mbps. Where the two go head-to-head with no other wireline competitor-about 45 percent of the country-cable will win almost 70 percent of the subscribers that are up for grabs.


That's not a good thought for vendors in this sector. The basic assumption is that DSL is yesterday's technology. But, in a more subtle way, it also is tomorrow's.