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Cisco ready to do DSL

A new Cisco product strategy seeks to win over service providers looking to roll out digital subscriber line technology.

Cisco Systems announced a broad product strategy today to win the hearts of service providers looking to roll out DSL (digital subscriber line) technology, a high-speed alternative that works over standard phone lines.

The networking giant will offer high-speed DSL equipment for central service provider sites, customer premises, small offices, and individual users--an ambitious undertaking that pits the company against numerous players in this emerging market.

Others angling for a similar piece of the nascent DSL pie include Ascend Communications, Lucent Technologies, and Northern Telecom.

In addition, 3Com is expected to expand its DSL hardware next month at the Supercomm '98 trade show in Atlanta, Georgia, leveraging the company's strength in remote access equipment.

A large portion of Cisco's rollout will be based on technology acquired recently from Dagaz Technologies and NetSpeed in deals totaling $360 million.

DSL technology maximizes the potential of regular copper phone lines by essentially splitting one line into three pipes: one for voice and the other two for sending and receiving huge packets of data at speeds more than 25 times faster than 56-kbps modems.

"Cisco has been fairly quiet on DSL," said Lisa Pelgrim, an analyst with Dataquest. "They are showing the market they intend to be an end-to-end player. This is really quite an extensive list."

As part of the announcement, the company rolled out a series of products targeted at the small business and individual user, including a modem, routers, and modules for existing equipment.

On the back end side, Cisco debuted the 6200 series of DSL access devices. It also added a 6400 series access concentration device along with gateway and accompanying provisioning technology.

To manage the layout, the company unveiled a new system for administration of DSL services, called the User Control Point, which offers service providers a method of provisioning several different types of services to customers.

Pelgrim was among several observers who were surprised at Cisco's focus on the small office and individual user--niches that 3Com carved out for itself in the early going of the DSL market. Unlike 3Com's retail bent, however, Cisco will provide the technology to service providers that will then resell those devices to end users.

TeleChoice, a technology consulting firm, said in a report that Cisco's DSL initiative could leave little to the imagination once all the pieces are in place: "This will be one of the most complete DSL solutions on the market when it is fully populated in October of this year."

Cisco executives said that carriers can now rationalize investments in DSL equipment. "The fact is that telcos can now generate profit," said Enzo Signore, product line manager for Cisco. "Now they can invest in DSL."