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Mobile

DSL modem standard gets final approval

The International Telecommunications Union gives final approval to a long-awaited DSL standard that hasten consumer use of high-speed Net connections.

The International Telecommunications Union today gave final approval to a long-awaited digital subscriber line standard that could hasten consumer use of high-speed Net connections.

The ITU, a Geneva, Switzerland-based international organization that governs the communications industry, approved the G.lite standard, a lower-speed DSL technology aimed at the mass-market consumer.

Advocates tout G.lite as a technology which will eliminate the lengthy home installation process. Instead of relying on a technician to install a DSL modem, a consumer would be able to buy the technology at a retail store and install it--saving phone companies a considerable amount of money.

Industry experts say offering G.lite DSL modems through the retail market, rather than using proprietary DSL technologies, could boost the adoption of high-speed Net access--at least in the residential markets.

"We?are pleased with the unprecedented industry-wide cooperation that has led to the ITU's ability to ratify the G.lite standard so quickly," Hans-Erhard Reiter, president of the ADSL Forum, a non-profit consortium of 300 companies in the industry, said in a statement.

"We plan to build on this progress by continuing the G.lite interoperability testing to accelerate the deployment of DSL products and services to the mass market," he added.

But some are cautioning that despite the promises of G.lite, the new standard may not have as big an impact as its backers hope.

For one, the new standard is aimed at consumers rather than businesses. Many analysts believe that cable modems will dominate the consumer market, while DSL will find popularity with business customers.

Local phone companies such as US West and BellSouth may adopt G.lite, analysts said. But upstarts such as Covad Communications, NorthPoint Communications, and Rhythms NetConnections are unlikely to embrace the standard on a widespread basis. This triumvirate of DSL competitors instead targets the small and medium-sized business market by offering SDSL, a different variety of DSL, which does not work with G.lite.

G.lite, often called "ADSL light" because it is a slower-speed version of asymmetric digital subscriber lines (ADSL), has maximum data download capabilities of 1.5 mbps (megabits per second). Other versions of DSL, however, offer much faster speeds. Some observers say the ITU traded of ease-of-installation over speed capabilities when deciding on the standard.

"What the aim is plug-and-play capability," said Jeannette Noyes, research manager for residential and small business communications at market research firm International Data Corporation. "That reduces the cost of deployment because, in theory, you don't need the truck roll."

Yet some market observers say the industry will never completely eliminate that "truck roll," or the process of sending a technician to the user's home, regardless of the retail availability of DSL modems.

The DSL industry would like to see G.lite modems and service available in time for the Christmas holiday season. But some question whether it can be done that quickly.

"I think you'll begin to see G.lite in the residential market in '99," Noyes said. "It may not make it into retail in '99, but it will in 2000."