Bell to expand DSL services

Bell Canada is boosting the bandwidth and coverage area of its business-class DSL offerings by deploying a DSL platform from Alcatel.

The Alcatel platform will give Bell customers in Ontario and Quebec download speeds of up to 3Mbps and upload speeds of approximately 800Kbps, said Peter Dodge, director of technology with Bell Canada. Dodge added that the Alcatel gear can provide download bandwidth of up to 7Mbps, but that the speed will depend upon how far along a copper loop the DSL signal has to travel. Bell is aiming for 3Mbps as the norm, but will consider providing higher speeds in specific cases.

In addition to driving better bandwidth, the new Alcatel gear is standards-based, Dodge noted.

“There’s been a lot of progress in achieving industry standardization for DSL protocol,” he said. “So there’s now a ratified industry standard. The Alcatel equipment we’ll be putting in is compliant to the industry standard.”

Because the Alcatel gear is standards-compliant, Bell will have more flexibility in the choice of terminal equipment that can interact with the platform, Dodge explained. For instance, he said, the terminal equipment could take the form of a modem, router, or a DSL-enabled PC device.

Bell’s current DSL offerings include its Sympatico High Speed Edition offering aimed at consumers and based on Nortel Networks’ 1-Meg modem and some business services based on Alcatel equipment. The existing Alcatel gear supports download speeds of up to 2.2Mbps, Dodge said.

Bell has already begun rolling out the new Alcatel platform and hopes to have the rollout complete by the end of the summer. Dodge said Bell will use the rollout to expand its DSL coverage area. Bell currently passes 3.25 million homes with DSL, he said, and by the end of the year plans to increase that total to 4.5 million.

Jordan Worth, an analyst with IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, noted Bell has been overly optimistic in setting DSL penetration targets in the past. Last year, Worth said, Bell forecast it would have 80,000 consumer DSL customers by year end and ended up with 59,000.

Worth added, however, that DSL is a solid technology, providing better bandwidth than ISDN at lower prices and that it makes sense for Bell to increase its DSL coverage.

“It’s in the major areas, but they’re basically expanding this web that still has a lot of holes in it,” he said. In addition to Bell, Worth noted that many CLECs offer business-class DSL services in Ontario and Quebec.

Bell has not yet finalized service offerings or pricing plans based on the new Alcatel equipment.