Carriers Prep DSL Wave Part II

As enthused as carriers are about fiber to the premises (FTTP), their plans are still well rooted in copper, with DSL upgrades playing a huge role in their access plans.

That's the conclusion of the recent Light Reading Insider report, "Next-Gen DSL Deluge," based on interviews with dozens of carriers. The report lists the DSL plans of the major carriers and grades the equipment vendors offering DSL access multiplexers (DSLAMs) and digital loop carriers (DLCs) to build out the DSL infrastructure.

Fiber has the potential to carry much more bandwidth than DSL, but DSL has the advantage of being cheap, because it runs on already installed copper lines. Moreover, consumers may not have reached the point where their usage patterns demand fiber (see Fiber's Sticky Wicket).

The capper is that new DSL technologies are bringing the technology to the level needed for fancy services, streaming video in particular. ADSL2+ promises download speeds as high as 25 Mbit/s, and for shorter reaches -- such as those found in dense Asian cities -- VDSL is promising 100 Mbit/s (see ADSL, Take 2+ and VDSL Races to 100 Mbit/s).

The availability of all that speed "will extend the life of the existing copper plant, and it's already made carriers think twice about upgrades to fiber," says the report, edited by Light Reading U.S. editor Scott Raynovich.

Some carriers are mixing their fiber and DSL diets. SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC), for example, is preaching a $6 billion strategy where fiber connects to the general neighborhood and DSL brings the connection home (see SBC's $6 Billion Banquet).

Others are harder to read. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has voiced plans to fiber up millions of homes during the next year, but its earnings calls have shown continued healthy growth in DSL. Some expect Verizon to scuttle the fiber strategy if certain FCC decisions don't go its way (see Verizon FTTP: Plenty of Exits).

DSL appears poised to lose out to fiber in the long run, at least in North America where VDSL's stunted reach eliminates it from most markets. Among the key long-term considerations is the delivery of high-definition TV over broadband, a service that's going to require multiple streams per residence at 22 Mbit/s per stream. "The jury is still out, however, on whether it's feasible [for copper technology] to push multiple streams of real-time, high-definition digital TV," says the report.

As for which companies are best positioned for the DSL windfall, the Insider report picks the no-brainer Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) as the leader, rating the company an "A" on its technology and "B" on its financials (no company earned an "A" for financials). Advanced Fibre Communications Inc. (AFC) (Nasdaq: AFCI) is also a promising player, although it's facing the distraction of a possible acquisition by Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA). (See Tellabs Buys AFC for $1.9 Billion and Honey, I Shrunk the Price.)

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) hasn't introduced a DLC or pure IP DSLAM, "but it's certainly a company to keep your eye on," the report notes. "If Cisco wants to get serious about DSL and the access markets, it needs to make an acquisition."

Other public companies covered by the report include:

The report also covers private companies, including Allied Telesyn International Inc. and Calix Networks Inc.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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lastmile 12/5/2012 | 1:16:46 AM
re: Carriers Prep DSL Wave Part II Sorry DSL not DLS.
lastmile 12/5/2012 | 1:16:46 AM
re: Carriers Prep DSL Wave Part II DSL Wave Part II is possible only with FTTP. Please correct me if I am wrong.
paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 1:16:43 AM
re: Carriers Prep DSL Wave Part II
Well, yes and no.

There is a problem with high rate DSLs over long distances (as this article alludes to). The most public place to view this that I am aware of is the Calix website (www.calix.com) and take a look at their ADSL2 performance numbers. The numbers with noise (SELF FEXT) represent what is going to happen with heavy concentrations of ADSL2+ in a binder group.

But wait VDSL2 is on its way right. Of course, its based on the same transmission technology. So, the bins that were bad in ADSL2+ are bad in VDSL2. Worse than that, the very high speeds are in even high frequency bins and are even more likely to have issues.

firstmile 12/5/2012 | 1:16:33 AM
re: Carriers Prep DSL Wave Part II Last,
I would say that you are partially true. But to be fully true, you have to believe the following two items:
1. Alcatel's DSLAM and Adtran's remote DSLAM represent the end game in copper. Other than the fact that the big carriers don't do anything exciting and ARE NOT technology leaders, I personally believe that there is plenty of room for DSL Wave Part II without fiber. These two equipment companies are not technical leaders and their roadmap of progress on their platforms is ridiculously slow (even by RBOC standards).

2. A decent penetration rate for FTTH will just take a LONG time. If you have underground plant (a lot of folks), and you are not a greenfield (way more folks), it will be a LONG time before the carriers get to you (~15 years are the estimates that I hear from Verizon (the leader)). 15 years is a LONG time when you think about the possiblities for innovation on copper. Hell there is a lot of copper gear out there that "blows the doors off" the capabilities of Alcatel and Adtran. Unfortunately most of the progressive and innovative carriers are gone.


RoutedWorld 12/5/2012 | 1:16:29 AM
re: Carriers Prep DSL Wave Part II
I noticed the article/tread just talked about DSL and FTTH as if they were the only two solutions. What about the new IEEE 802.3ah standard (the Ethernet over copper part)? Any chance that could take off?
firstmile 12/5/2012 | 1:16:22 AM
re: Carriers Prep DSL Wave Part II RW,
That is a very broad (and important) standard. As you know a big chunk of it also covers fiber which no doubt is probably part of the FTTH second (or third) wave. In my humble opinion, the Ethernet over Copper stuff seems like an absolute "no brainer", but please refer to my previous post "Unfortunately most of the progressive and innovative carriers are gone" When thinking of the RBOCs I love the quote that I have heard repeated over time..."One hundred years of tradition unimpeded by progress"
Frank 12/5/2012 | 1:16:17 AM
re: Carriers Prep DSL Wave Part II Been reading the thread and can't argue with too much, except to observe that many of the points being made are North America-specific, and primarily geared toward how RBOCs are treating the matter. Ethernet over obth fiber and copper are on the drawing boards, indeed already being deployed. Check out what the by indies, coops and most importantly, overseas operators ard doing, where their numbers dwarf anything that is being done stateside in the way of fiber to the anything. If this is a discussion on NA very large ILEC trends, then fine. If it focuses on the broader field, however, then there is a lot to be said about the technologies that have taken a back seat here, so far.

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