Voice Takes DSL Center Stage at SUPERCOMM ’99
By Peter Lambert
Over the past year, national digital subscriber line (DSL) competitive carriers have
established a model for reselling high-speed local transport to Internet service providers
(ISPs), enabling the latter to offer Internet access speeds more than 100 times faster
than dial-up Internet access. The model has won several DSL carriers billion-dollar
valuations on Wall Street.
By this time next year, DSL competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) also may prove
a model for reselling transport to local and long distance telephone companies at costs
substantially lower than traditional telephony access can offer.
DSL CLEC equipment providers threw down the gauntlet at this year’s SUPERCOMM ’99
convention in Atlanta, which became the forum for literally dozens of voice over DSL
(VoDSL) technology partnerships and field-trial announcements.
Purveyors of the new VoDSL platforms predict early deployments later this year,
followed by an explosion of service launches in 2000. In the long run, the capability to
deliver two to 20 voice circuits, along with data traveling at 128-kilobits-per-second
(kbps) to 1.5-megabits-per-second (mbps) speeds–all over a single copper link–promises
to turn DSL from a simple high-speed Internet access tool into a broadband, integrated
access system for voice, Internet and private business data.
If successful, VoDSL could multiply DSL’s revenue potential tenfold. According to
Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. (IDC) research, U.S. businesses with
fewer than 100 employees already spend $36 billion annually on local telephone services
and another $10 billion on long distance voice services, dwarfing the $3.7 billion they
spend on data services.
"Now you don’t have to justify DSL deployments on data alone," says Jennifer
Nance Stagnaro, vice president of marketing for one VoDSL gateway maker, Santa Clara,
Calif.-based CopperCom Inc. "You can justify it on data revenue, plus 10 times that
much spending in voice."
With so much potential revenue at stake, virtually every maker of DSL central office
(CO) equipment and customer premises equipment (CPE) used the SUPERCOMM forum to announce
technology integration and co-development partnerships with vendors specializing in
telephone-friendly DSL customer devices and gateways that port VoDSL to the public
switched telephone network (PSTN).
Among the emerging VoDSL gateway players: CopperCom Inc.; Integrated Network Corp.,
Bridgewater, N.J.; IPAXS Corp., Tampa, Fla.; Jetstream Communications Inc., Los Gatos,
Calif.; and TollBridge Technologies Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif.
Their systems enable DSL customer equipment to accept standard PC, router and analog
phone inputs, packetize all the traffic, prioritize mission-critical or delay-sensitive
traffic such as voice, and then place each type of traffic in its own virtual circuit (VC)
for DSL transport to the DSL access multiplexer (DSLAM). The DSLAM then feeds data traffic
to private or public data networks while feeding the voice traffic to the VoDSL gateway.
The gateway converts the traffic from multiple DSLAMs to a time-division multiplexed (TDM)
format acceptable to a local, Class 5 circuit-voice switch, which passes on the traffic to
the PSTN. The systems also enable the customer equipment to signal the Class 5 switch for
provisioning of custom local area signaling service (CLASS) features including dialing
plan and call forwarding.
Jetstream, CopperCom and other VoDSL vendors promise to make their equipment generally
available this year. Due in the third quarter, for example, the CopperCom Gateway starts
with support for 1,056 simultaneous calls and will be priced between $45,000 and $110,000.