Voice, data, and video convergence: Are both DSL and fiber in the future for carriers?

There was a time when telecommunications professionals spoke of convergence strictly in terms of the confluence of voice and data. Today, a new powerful element has been added to the mix--video. One thing that hasn't been altered, according to Janice Aune, vice president of networking operations for U S WEST !NTERPRISE Networking, is how carriers think about convergence.

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There was a time when telecommunications professionals spoke of convergence strictly in terms of the confluence of voice and data. Today, a new powerful element has been added to the mix--video. One thing that hasn't been altered, according to Janice Aune, vice president of networking operations for U S WEST !NTERPRISE Networking, is how carriers think about convergence. And what they think about mostly is how to meet the bandwidth demands resulting from this growing phenomenon.

"The greatest challenge we and the other carriers have is being able to meet the capacity requirements; the second is extending the reach of the local loop itself," says Aune, who is chairing a plenary panel discussion entitled "Delivering Integrated, Multiservice Networks in the Competitive Local Loop" at the International Engineering Consortium's Broadband Local Loop ComForum. The ComForum, which is co-located with the Consortium's All-Optical Networks ComForum, will be held April 11-13 at the Pointe Hilton at Tapatio Cliffs in Phoenix, AZ.

While digital subscriber line (DSL) technology provides plenty of bandwidth (256k in most instances) to meet the capacity requirements of voice and data convergence, it is presently limited in that users must be within three miles of a central office. This leaves some people beyond the reach of the technology.

Aune says vendors are doing their best to step up to the challenge, but the technology isn't moving fast enough to keep up with demand. "Every couple of years we are seeing a doubling of the performance of the technology, but right now the state of the art says that you can get 300 subs into a seven-foot bay in a central office," she explains. "That's not very much density. Obviously, extending the reach is a very big issue."

Another issue is what to do about video, which demands even higher megabit throughputs than those required by data transmissions. "We're trying to accomplish what has been described as the renaissance of the copper pair," Aune says. "But we're also focused on fiber to the node and fiber to the home. This is not an either/or scenario."

Perhaps not for the carriers. For end-users though, particularly at the residential level, a choice ultimately may be made between DSL service and cable-modem service. While Aune acknowledges that RBOCs like U S WEST are in a race with the cable companies right now, she believes strongly that DSL will, in the end, be the technology of choice for most customers.

The TecForum Aune will be chairing is scheduled to be held Monday, April 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. It will examine and analyze the successes, challenges, and alternate means of deploying converged high-speed access platforms.

This article appears courtesy of the International Engineering Consortium (Chicago, IL). For more information on Broadband Local Loop ComForum 2000, All-Optical Networks ComForum 2000, or other IEC programs and conferences, visit www.iec.org.

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