AccessLan bringing DSL past the DLC

San Jose, Calif.’s AccessLan Communications, which has made a name for itself as a supplier of DSL equipment for multi-tenant unit service providers, is now offering local exchange carriers an opportunity to capture a residential market previously unable to receive DSL service.

According to AccessLan, two new line modules for its central-office DSL access multiplexer, the PL-2000 iSLAM, allow service providers to provide DSL connections to residents both far away from the central office or stuck behind a digital loop carrier.

A DLC, often found in suburban subdivisions, is a remote terminal that increases the number of channels in the local loop by converting analogue signals to digital and multiplexing them back to the end office. The technology allows telcos to forego laying copper wire all the way out to the customer. But it also makes copper-based DSL service impossible, as DLCs are only set up to allow ISDN or T-1 lines to be fed through it.

“DLCs came out at the same time as ISDN was becoming very popular as well,” said Dave Eckard, senior product line manager for PL-2000 at AccessLan’s offices in Boston. “At the time, ISDN was supposedly going to be the broadband connection of our future. That lasted only a couple of years.”

Now, with customers clamouring for the minimum 384Kbps throughput rates carriers are advertising for their DSL services, at least a third of residents are finding that their location behind the DLC means they are stuck with ISDN’s 144Kbps speed, Eckard said.

Eckard’s estimates were confirmed by Bell Canada, which told Canadian Telecom that 70 per cent of its customers in Ontario and Quebec will have the ability to order ADSL by the end of this year. The company’s goal is to increase that figure to 80 per cent by the end of next year and 85 per cent by the end of 2002.

Rather than wait, AccessLan is marketing its modules to CLECs hoping to capture a share of the 30 per cent of customers Bell is currently unable to provision with DSL services.

AccessLan’s 24-port IDSL Bonding Module is an ISDN-based DSL solution that involves tying together six bonded 144Kbps copper pairs to achieve a total speed of 864Kbps. With repeaters, Eckard said the IDSL lines can be taken out 10 kilometres.

Or if carriers prefer, AccessLan is also offering a 12-port DS-1 line module that enables service providers to run clear channel T1 lines direct to the customer from the central office. The cost per port of T-1 is more than regular DSL, but AccessLan believes service providers can oversubscribe the trunking bandwidth for residential customers.

Eckard also said carriers can increase their revenues by offering new DSL-based services to residential customers.

“Those services will be virtual private networks for telecommuters, maybe long distance calling, gaming over the Internet – things of this nature that help increase the revenue,” Eckard said. “It’s very similar to what the telco did with regards to offering call waiting services, voice mail, etc. to their customers. And that’s one of the reasons why we came up with the IP intelligent iSLAM is that the DSLAMs of the past, the old layer 2 model, were not really prepared for these services.”

Iain Grant, a senior analyst with The Yankee Group in Canada in Brockville, Ont., said he is skeptical about the necessity for AccessLan’s new modules in Canada, especially concerning their ability to solve distance problems.

“Certainly in Bell’s territories at least, Bell’s invested a lot of money in infrastructure over the years, and they’ve done a good job,” Grant said. “About 90 per cent of Ontario’s and Quebec’s households are within a kilometre of a network access point.”

Peter Dodge, Bell’s director of technology development, said his company is also in the process of deploying remote DSL equipment supplied by Alcatel near its DLCs. Though it does not yet have a voice-over DSL offering, Dodge said the DSLAMs are capable of providing that service if Bell chooses to offer it.