Voice-Over-DSL Turns Heads at ComNet

WASHINGTON (01/28/2000) - If digital subscriber line gear introduced at ComNet 2000 last week is any indication, inexpensive voice-over-DSL services should be coming soon to a service provider near you.

Vendors Vina Technologies and Efficient Networks Inc. debuted voice-over-DSL gear that combines multiple voice channels and wideband data on regular phone lines. Plus, ComNet 2000 demonstrations showing that DSL voice gear made by different vendors can interoperate indicate the technology will soon be incorporated and work together in service provider networks, says Matthew Davis, senior analyst with The Yankee Group in Boston.

"Service providers will want voice capabilities in [customer premise devices] or at least the option to upgrade to voice," Davis says.

Using customer-site routers that combine voice and data onto DSL links, service providers will offer bargain prices by the end of the year - 30 percent to 40 percent off the combined phone and Internet access bills customers currently have, he predicts.

The services probably will be packaged so customers pay close to the current prices for phone service and receive Internet access free.

At the show, Vina was showing a mock-up of its DSL e-Link, an integrated access device (IAD) that supports up to 16 regular phone channels on a 768K-bps symmetric DSL (SDSL) line. At the same time, a data channel on the connection can hook up with the Internet. The box also functions as a router, DHCP server and firewall. DSL e-Link is scheduled to ship this spring. Pricing has not been set.

Efficient pulled the wraps off its SpeedStream 8600 IAD. Hardware modules for the 8600 can be installed to provide phone ports in multiples of four up to 24.

The box supports SDSL and asymmetric DSL (ADSL), and Efficient has plans for more wide area connections. Those include T-1-speed ATM as well as two-wire, high-bit-rate DSL (HDSL2) to give service providers more flexibility on what transport to use. Because different technologies have different distance limitations, carriers can pick and choose the one that makes sense for each customer site.

Other vendors at the show demonstrated their equipment in action. TollBridge Technologies sponsored a bank of DSL phones for reporters to use. And Promatory Communications teamed up with Jetstream Communications to demonstrate that their gear interoperates. Without interoperability, service providers would have to buy from a single vendor, something carriers like to avoid.

Promatory and Jetstream also showed how the gear could be used with an ATM switch to divert traffic around network failures.

Most of the DSL providers are relying on ATM to carry voice and data traffic over the DSL links. ATM is the most reliable technology for imposing quality of service (QoS) on different traffic types and ensuring voice quality, says Peter Meade, a principal with TeleResearch2, Inc., a telecom market research firm.

Eventually, QoS features will be added to IP and vendors will shift from ATM to IP, he says, but that is 18 months away.

Alcatel showed its OmniPCX 4400 voice-over-IP platform, which can integrate computers with telephones and save money by merging corporate voice and data networks.

The OmniPCX 4400 is made up of client/server gear that uses corporate IP networks to deliver phone service to corporate desktops. That includes PBX functions such as call forwarding, three-digit dialing and three-way calling, among others.

While the platform includes specialized wired and wireless IP telephones, it also lets customers use regular analog handsets and PCs to make phone calls.

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More about Alcatel-LucentComnetData ChannelEfficient NetworksJetstream CommunicationsPromatoryPromatory CommunicationsTollbridgeTollbridge TechnologiesVina TechnologiesYankee Group

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