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Test & Measurement

ASSIA Gets Behind DSL Management

After years of diligent development and working almost under the radar, DSL line management specialist Assia Inc. is on a roll. The company, led by broadband pioneer John Cioffi, is announcing technology developments and further funding from the carrier community.

ASSIA specializes in making DSL broadband connections more efficient using a software-based technique called Dynamic Spectrum Management (DSM), which reduces interference ("noise" or "crosstalk") on DSL lines to boost connection speeds and reach. The software "interrogates" the broadband connections daily, identifies problems, and "fixes" those problems before they impact service quality.

Most of the lines managed by ASSIA's Expresse software are in the US, but chairman and CEO Cioffi, and his recently expanded team, are looking to increase that number substantially by engaging more customers in North America and expanding further overseas. (See Assia Expands Management Team.)

ASSIA set that growth trajectory in motion in November 2009, raising $10 million in cash for research and development purposes and expansion. At that time, ASSIA managed 23.3 million lines. (See Carriers Cough Up for Cioffi for that news, plus more background on Cioffi's company and what it does.)

Now, ASSIA's software, which uses Level 1 DSM techniques (also known as dynamic line management), is currently used to manage 34.5 million DSL connections, just more than 10 percent of the world's DSL lines, and the company has further funding, and new product, and a new business model to boost its growth potential.

Cioffi's cash cache
First, the money. Cioffi has raised another $10.8 million to add to last year's cash, and has added Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) to its list of carrier investors, which already includes French carrier SFR , Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) (Swisscom Ventures), and T-Venture (the finance arm of Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT)).

Level 2, please
Second, the expanded product set. Cioffi claims that the latest release of the company's main product -- Expresse Release 2.1 -- is the first product to introduce Level 2 DSM, which addresses spectrum management across multiple DSL Lines. (There are three levels of DSM, the third of which is "vectoring" -- see Copper: Still a Precious Metal?.)

Power down
But that's not all. It also includes a power-management module that "is very important, especially in Europe where telcos have been asked to cut their power consumption," notes Cioffi. He adds that cutting the power use on a DSL line has benefits other than just reducing costs and being more green. "Lower power usage also decreases noise in the network -- less power means less crosstalk, and that means greater speed."

Cioffi says operators can save megawatts of power in large deployments using power management techniques, while ASSIA's senior VP of marketing Steve Timmerman claims that trials of the module show savings of up to $500,000 per year in a 1 million-line DSL network.

The new release also covers the management of bonded DSL lines and VDSL2, which is becoming increasingly popular as carriers roll out fiber-to-the-curb/cabinet access networks. (See Calix Customers Heart VDSL2, BT Picks ECI for FTTP, KPN Sticks With IPTV for Its FTTx Future, T Italia Builds Quake-Proof FTTx, Qwest Ready to Ride Video's Over-the-Top Wave , and BT Ups Its FTTP Target.)

And Release 2.1 also boosts the speed of Level 1 DSM line checking: Cioffi says the new product can check up to 5 million lines per day. "No one else can do that," he boasts. The CEO compares that rate with traditional digital line-management techniques using OSS tools that cover "a few thousand lines per week and require manual intervention," Cioffi says. "Speed is important if you want to find and repair problems before a customer is affected."

Getting SaaSy
ASSIA is also introducing a software-as-a-service model of distribution to address the needs of smaller DSL network operators that have restricted resources and requirements. Cioffi says this service, which he is keen on as it's a "higher-margin business," is available in the US currently -- it is already being used by a few independent local operators such as Hill Country Telephone Cooperative in Ingram, Texas -- and will be offered elsewhere in 2011.

Partners, rivals, and distant lands
Cioffi is also expanding ASSIA's routes to market. He says that while some of the larger network equipment vendors are "trying to mirror our success" -- he wouldn't name names, though Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) is the most prominent -- ASSIA has teamed up with "a large DSLAM vendor" on a particular deal, and has partnerships with three smaller vendors that target smaller, competitive operators. However, again he declined to identify any vendors. (See AlcaLu Develops 'SmartDSL'.)

The CEO says he isn't feeling much in the way of competitive pressure. "We don't have any competitors that aren't DSLAM vendors. Those [DSLAM] vendors package their DSL management tools with the sale of their equipment, while we are vendor independent, and their software can't handle a lot of requests," he adds.

High on Cioffi's agenda now is international expansion. ASSIA already has some business in Europe and Asia/Pacific, but he is keen for more. "We're expanding further into Europe and Asia, and we're getting into Latin America," says the CEO, who's heading for the Broadband World Forum 2010 event in Paris, where he'll be looking for other DSL developments as well as chairing some sessions. "I'm happy to see announcements from the vendors about very fast DSL products. We have about 200 patents, and no one is achieving more than 100-Mbit/s DSL without using ASSIA technology," he boasts.

Check out all the major news and developments from Paris at our Broadband World Forum Show Site.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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