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Lucent modems aim to broaden DSL usage

Five companies sign on to ship Lucent modems intended to make it easier to get high-speed connections with Internet service providers.

Five companies have signed on to ship Lucent modems intended to make it easier to get high-speed connections with Internet service providers, Lucent announced.

The Murray Hill, New Jersey-based company hopes it has found a way to accelerate the adoption of DSL (digital subscriber line) modems, by offering so-called software upgrades permitting its consumer DSL modems to connect high-speed networks that use equipment made by different companies.

The end result would be that a greater number of consumers would have access to DSL service, without requiring a telephone company to install new DSL equipment.

The rollout of DSL technology has been hampered by the fact that a user's modem needs to be from the same company that is being used by the service provider. Additionally, service technicians are needed to install these modems.

That problem has been partially rectified by the adoption of an international standard for G.lite DSL modems, which can receive data at up to 1.5 mbps (megabits per second), and can be installed by consumers. However, service providers also need to have modems in their headquarters that can communicate with G.lite modems, which in many cases will mean having to install new equipment.

With the software from Lucent, the company's WildWire chips can speak to G.lite DSL modems as well as "full-rate" DSL modems, allowing currently installed equipment to serve these consumers as well as customers paying a premium for faster full-rate DSL services. Analysts say Lucent's technology has the potential to speed the adoption of broadband service because of this feature.

"You'll see later this year that [the industry] will go from the plumbing issues [how to make the technology work] to how to roll service out and make it fit in with a consumer business model," said Tony Grewe, Lucent's director of strategy and business development.

The Strategis Group, a telecommunications market research firm, has predicted that approximately 9.1 million households will subscribe to a broadband Internet service in 2003, making it a $3.8 billion business.

DSL is predicted to reach 2.9 million households in 2003 with much of its growth coming after the year 2000, coinciding with the spread in availability of G.lite technology, the report said. Those numbers could accelerate rapidly upward. Lucent said it has already shipped 250,000 modem chipsets that can be upgraded to the technology.

Among those committed to shipping chips with the upgraded technology are PC maker Dell Computer and modem makers Zoom Telephonics and Creative Technology.