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Consensus on DSL standards

A preliminary standard paves the way for faster modems that can offer high-speed Internet access over regular phone lines.

A preliminary standard for digital subscriber line modems has been set, paving the way for faster modems that can offer high-speed Internet access over regular phone lines.

Lucent Technologies, one of the many participants in the process, reported today that a preliminary, or "determined," standard for DSL modems has been set by the International Telecommunications Union. The move had been expected by the communications industry, as reported earlier this week by CNET News.com.

"The industry has proven it can avoid a repeat of last year's 56-kbps modem standards battles," Kevin Cone, strategic marketing manager with Lucent Technologies Microelectronics Group, said in a statement. "We agreed on the DSL 'lite' line code early and drove the standards process along in an expedient way."

The move for a DSL standard has come about quietly, especially in contrast to the high-profile posturing and wrangling that marked the battle to establish a standard for 56-kbps dial-up modems. The formal ratification of the G.992.2 standard for the technology is scheduled for next June.

A standard for so-called G.lite DSL modems, which would offer consumers download speeds of up to 1.5 mbps, has been the most anticipated of the various standards that have been set.

The standard would ensure that all DSL modems could speak with one another, meaning that customers won't have to worry about what technology to buy. Just as important for making the service widely available, the DSL lite standard, now referred to as G.922.2, means that telcos could soon be offering services that are more cost-competitive with cable modem service.

A customer now ordering DSL service typically buys from the service provider a modem that is compatible only with its network equipment. If a customer moves out of the service area for that equipment, he or she could be stuck with an expensive piece of equipment that doesn't work in his or her new location.

By next year, a DSL standard is expected to translate into a larger range of companies to choose from, resulting in more competitive pricing. Also, more consumers will be sampling and buying DSL service in retail stores.