Bonding Enhances DSL Value

SAN MATEO (07/07/2000) - Boosting the value of DSL for business users, Netopia Inc. next week plans to add to its IDSL (DSL over ISDN) routers a DSL bonding capability, which aggregates multiple DSL lines into one pipe.

IDSL bonding addresses the problem of reduced DSL bandwidth for customers who are located several miles away from the central office. By combining as many as four IDSL lines, users can get speeds as fast as 576Kbps as far as 6.8 miles from the central office, Netopia said.

"The challenge has been that users contact their ISPs to get DSL, but they can't get that in their area. If they are too far out, they can only get 144K[bps], which [makes it] barely worth getting off ISDN. This makes it a more interesting proposition to have high speeds at over 6 miles out from the DSLAM [DSL access multiplexer]," said Barbara Tien, director of product marketing at Netopia, in Alameda, California.

According to one analyst, bonding can overcome some core issues with IDSL, which can reach as far as 30,000 feet from the central office but is limited in speed.

"Being able to bond up to four IDSL circuits, which are relatively inexpensive, you could go out 30,000 feet but still get some decent bandwidth," said Pat Hurley, DSL analyst at TeleChoice, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The bonding functionality uses Multilink PPP to aggregate traffic from each DSL circuit. As opposed to DSLAM-based bonding, Netopia's DSL bonding process operates independently of the DSLAM, so ISPs can deploy bonded DSL services without reconfiguring or upgrading central office equipment, Netopia officials said.

According to a manager at an ISP that offers DSL services in 118 markets across the United States, separating bonding from the DSLAM and moving it out into the CPE (customer premise equipment) simplifies the process.

"It means we don't have to go through every DSLAM [we use], which is over 1,100, and change out cards or do upgrades because the CPE will allow us to [deploy bonded services]. It is a much faster availability for this technology," said Beth Hannan, DSL product manager at Global Crossing, in Rochester, New York.

Within the next few months, Netopia plans to introduce bonding for symmetrical DSL and asymmetrical DSL, which will bump speeds past 3Mbps -- twice as fast as T1, officials at the company said.

Primarily viewed as a connection alternative for small and midsize businesses, the higher speeds and better coverage afforded by technologies such as bonding may help attract large businesses to DSL.

"I think you'll see more large businesses move toward DSL now that it is proven in the market and deployments are getting widespread," TeleChoice's Hurley said. "This bonding [technology] to get higher speeds certainly will help that effort."

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