Alcatel offers a smarter DSL box

In a move designed to please large carrier customers, Alcatel SA in Paris has introduced a new version of its DSLAM (DSL Access Multiplexer) with new IP functions and management features.

The 7300 ASAM (Advanced Services Access Manager) supports IP multicasting, technology that could make it easier for providers to offer streaming media content such as video to their DSL customers.

IP multicasting is a way to handle bandwidth-hungry content such as video more efficiently. “With IP multicasting you don’t have to send every customer a separate video stream,” said Dan Berninger, an analyst at in Melville, N.Y. “It is a way to put more intelligence into the network.”

Matt Davis, senior broadband analyst at The Yankee Group Inc. in Boston, said the fact that Alcatel is the leading supplier of DSLAM equipment to carriers such as Verizon and SBC makes the introduction of this product significant.

“They [Alcatel] have about a 35 [per cent] to 40 per cent share of the DSLAM market worldwide, more than anyone else,” Davis said. “And Alcatel listens to their customers, so it looks like the ILECs [incumbent local exchange carriers] are getting more serious about offering things like video services.”

Briana Gowing, a spokeswoman for Verizon in New York, said the company is actively looking at ways to provide advanced services such as video over DSL. “We want to compete more directly with the cable companies,” Gowing said. “We are working with content providers and trying to determine what the best architecture will be for doing this.”

The architectural debate is far from settled, according to Berninger. “One side says just increase bandwidth, and, up to now, that camp has won. But the other option is to use technologies like the IP multicasting in Alcatel’s new DSLAM to build more intelligence into the network.”

Berninger said that carriers such as Verizon tend to favour the second option. “This gives them more control,” he explained. “Up to now, DSL equipment has been dumb, and this drives the carriers crazy because they have no way to monitor content. With smarter equipment the carriers can manage the flow of content and charge more for value-added services like video.”

The 7300 ASAM also has a new Web-based management tool. “This is primarily aimed at our smaller carrier customers,” said Jay Fausch, senior director of marketing at Alcatel. “But large carriers can also use it to access and manage the DSLAM equipment from a remote site outside the central office.”

Mitch Strobin, vice-president of marketing at Alcatel, said the new DSLAM helped win another three-year contract with France Telecom. “France Telecom is looking for ways to offer new entertainment services,” Strobin said.