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Fast modem technology tested

Alcatel, Analog Devices, and TI will test for ADSL compatibility so consumers won't have to worry about what technology the phone company uses.

Alcatel, Analog Devices, and Texas Instruments will begin testing their high-speed digital subscriber line products for compatibility so that customers won't have to worry about what technology to buy.

The compatibility testing, when completed, will allow customers who invest in products using ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) technology to have a larger range of vendors to choose from--resulting in more competitive pricing--and make equipment installation easier. The three companies make chipsets that are used at both ends of the DSL connection.

The agreement covers a type of DSL technology that delivers data over traditional copper phone lines at speeds up to 8 mbps. Officials at the companies say they will also work on making compatible equipment for the upcoming DSL "lite" technology, which would allow data transmission speeds of up to 1.5 mbps.

To date, ADSL has been slow to gain mass acceptance because it requires specialized technology from a single vendor to be installed at both the consumer's home or place of business as well as the telephone company's central office. The labor and equipment involved have, for the most part, made it prohibitively expensive. Officials hope that by working on making equipment compatible, they can speed up the adoption of DSL technology.

"It is important to notice that interoperability is an imperative condition to allow mass markets to arise," said Jurgen Lison, ADSL program manager for Alcatel.

The testing, announced by the companies today, will be based on the American National Standards Institute specification. The three companies involved will initially conduct the testing separately, and then test for interoperability at a neutral testing facility.

"Interoperability based on international standards is something that will be very worthwhile around the world. Customers can choose any modem from companies that will part in this interoperability [agreement]," said Lison.