Performance Telecom has developed a 7Mbps digital subscriber line modem that claims to dramatically reduce downloading times over copper networks.
One of the first DSL modems to ship, the Champion device can download the Encyclopaedia Britannica in seven minutes - compared to 54 hours using conventional modems - and a telephone conversation can be held at the same time.
There promises to be a flurry of DSL products launched in the next few months, bringing video telephony, fast Internet access and interactive services to people with copper phone lines. However, Virginia-based Communications Industry Researchers believes that, despite the hype, cable modems will be the winners in the Internet access market.
Cable modems are the main alternative to DSL for applications that require access speeds beyond those of conventional modems and ISDN terminal adapters. Lawrence Gasman, Internet project director at CIR, believes cable modems will win because they are more scalable. "The choice between the two programmes has been falsely presented as a battle between the telephone companies and the cable companies," he commented. "But telcos use cable modems too."
In terms of data rates, the two technologies are neck and neck, CIR says. Cable modems, based on a hybrid fibre-coax (HFC) architecture, support 30Mbps and DSL 7-9Mbps, but bottlenecks between the PC and the network, and the shared bandwidth of HFC, bring real world delivery down to 1.5-3Mbps in both cases.
The greater capacity of fibre means cable modems are a longer term option, Gasman claims. "Both have their place in the short to medium term marketplace, but the DSL programme will ultimately run out of steam," he said.
Jim Gulley, vice president of sales and marketing at Performance, said the advantage of copper-based solutions is that they are cheaper and are available now. "With DSL, it's really a case of back to the future," he said. "We've discovered that we don't need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars and wait three or four decades for fibre because DSL has caused the rebirth of good old copper phone lines."
The Champion modem will cost $500-1,000 depending on volume and has Ethernet bridging and IP built in. This means it can be plugged into an Ethernet interface card. It supplies three separate frequency channels over the same phone line - one for phone conversations, one for receiving data from the service provider at speeds up to 7Mbps, and the last for sending data back at speeds up to 640Kbps. There are also separate data and video ports, the latter supporting MPEG1 and MPEG2 video.
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