Nortel, RedBack to Push the Spread of DSL

Digital Subscriber Line technology (DSL) has been slow to get off the ground. The technology is available from smaller local service providers, but rollout on a national level has yet to occur.

In an effort to accelerate the deployment of DSL, Nortel Networks (Research Triangle Park, N.C., and RedBack Networks Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif., announced a multiyear agreement where Nortel will resell the RedBack Subscriber Management System 1000 (SMS 1000) in Nortel’s 1-Meg Modem network solutions. The combined product offering enables service providers and large corporations to more easily introduce DSL technology into their networks, thus providing the ability to support thousands of end users.

"This agreement will make broadband technologies like DSL less of a headache for service providers," says Ron Westfall, analyst at Current Analysis (Sterling, Va.), a market analysis firm. "In turn this will drive the deployment of DSL."

RedBack’s SMS 1000 is a high-density networking device that bridges the operational gap between DSL equipment in the central office and service provider backbone routers. Deployed by carriers at a network access point or by service providers at a data center, SMS 1000 aggregates a high concentration of data traffic from DSL equipment. It applies a scalable user configuration, grooms the traffic to offload backbone routers, and enables connections to multiple destination networks.

"It’s a hidden little secret that with a DSL connection you only get one place to go," says Larry Blair, vice president of marketing at Redback. "So if your DSL line goes to the corporate network, all you can do is access the corporate network."

With SMS 1000, though, users can switch back and forth between accessing the corporate network and an ISP. "Telecommuters are the part of the market where there’s real opportunity here," says Claudia Bacco, senior DSL analyst at TeleChoice Inc. (Dallas), a telecommunications consulting and market analysis firm. "The ability to switch back and forth between a corporate LAN and an ISP works well for them because they can access what they need to on the LAN and keep other stuff, such as Internet e-mail and streaming media, away from the LAN."

While telecommuters can take advantage of this technology, it is not limited to one machine per 1-Meg Modem. Small branch offices also may find this capability useful. SMS 1000 uses point-to-point protocol over Ethernet (PPPOE), so multiple PCs sharing a single 1-Meg Modem can connect to several service networks. "Support for PPPOE will make DSL more user-friendly. The configuration process is similar to that of a regular ISP, except that it’s for broadband, always-on service," says Current Analysis’ Westhall.

The obvious question facing this solution is whether DSL will be available nationwide. There are several complicated issues on every front of DSL rollout, including its effective working distance, standards, billing and integration. Thus far, DSL availability has been limited to certain regions, and has been provided primarily by competitive local exchange carriers.

TeleChoice’s Bacco says that DSL has a bright future. "Many of the major ILECs (incumbent local exchange carriers) are simultaneously announcing the availability of DSL," she says. "When that support gets up and running, DSL will make it."