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The introduction of digital subscriber lines (DSLs) is about to ease the UK’s move towards broadband technology. But the DSL story doesn’t begin and end with ADSL.
The ADSL services on offer can’t guarantee the speeds they promise, and don’t offer the “headroom”, or safe bandwidth thresholds, that are available from leased lines. This is why so many companies which can’t simply rely on much slower ISDN are paying for expensive leased lines.
However, leased lines are also symmetrical: they offer the same speeds for both receiving and sending data, unlike ADSL.
The introduction of symmetrical DSL (SDSL) is the first DSL solution that companies which need more reliable bandwidth should be looking out for.
Symmetrical networking is essential if virtual private networks are to be maintained to a consistent level, and applications like video conferencing also require equal bandwidth both ways. Moreover, businesses need a symmetrical service to allow them to host a website, as well as browsing others.
BT is already testing SDSL services, and many more companies are poised to enter the UK DSL market when the local loop copper network is unbundled by Oftel next July.
This unbundling will see BT lose exclusive control of the telephone exchanges which control the copper wires that connect homes and businesses. A number of companies are itching to provide alternative services by paying BT access charges to the exchanges.
And this is just the start of it. Expect to see voice over DSL and higher speed DSL soon. While the success of DSL may, in the short to medium term, be measured by the take-up of ADSL, many other niche forms of the technology will be more suitable for business.