Alcatel-Lucent Discovers 300Mbps DSL Internet Through Existing Copper

Remember when the first 56k modem demolished everything before it? Remember when ISDN made even 56k look sluggish? Remember when cable and DSL modems made the Internet more than just a pain to watch load? Broadband has obviously changed the world as we know it, but even today, many broadband users see upload and download rates that are rather poky in many scenarios. In the U.S., it's unusual to find broadband speeds that exceed 50Mbps, and many ISPs that offer speeds that high charge much more for it than the "standard" rate.

Alcatel-Lucent is in the business of pushing things ever faster, and the company's research arm (Bell Labs) has just demonstrated exactly that. The new technology takes two DSL lines and pushes 300Mbps over them. In a lab test of “DSL Phantom Mode”, Bell Labs achieved downstream transmission speeds of 300 Megabits per second (Mbps) over distances up to 400 meters (or 100Mbps at 1km). At these speeds, service providers will be able to maximize the ability of the existing copper infrastructure - widely deployed around the world - to satisfy demand for bandwidth-intense residential triple-play and business services, for years to come.

This new mode is extremely attractive for one main reason: it uses existing infrastructure technologies. Verizon's FiOS offers speeds approaching this, but the company had to invest billions for a new fiber-optic network in order to make it happen. The fact that existing copper loops can facilitate 300Mbps at 400 meters reshapes the whole next-generation broadband competitive environment, and the only question we have is when will this kind of technology be widely available outside of a lab. Our ping times are dying to know.

At its core, DSL Phantom Mode involves the creation of a virtual or “phantom” channel that supplements the two physical wires that are the standard configuration for copper transmission lines. Bell Labs’ innovation and the source of DSL Phantom Mode’s dramatic increase in transmission capacity lies in its application of analogue phantom mode technology in combination with industry-standard techniques: vectoring that eliminates interference or “crosstalk” between copper wires, and bonding that makes it possible to take individual lines and aggregate them.

“Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs’ DSL Phantom Mode lab test adds a whole new dimension to the ongoing ‘100Mbps for all’ debate. The fact that existing copper loops can facilitate 300Mbps at 400 meters reshapes the whole next-generation broadband competitive environment - and will open up a wide range of new business opportunities for ‘traditional’ DSL players,” comments Kamalini Ganguly, Analyst from Ovum. “This announcement shows that Alcatel-Lucent is seriously looking at all possible innovations to help its customers speed up the deployment of next-generation access networks, through a smart mix of advanced copper and fiber technologies.”

“We often think of the role innovation plays in generating technologies of the future, but DSL Phantom Mode is a prime example of the role innovation can play in creating a future for existing solutions and injecting them with a new source of value,” said Gee Rittenhouse, head of Research for Bell Labs. “What makes DSL Phantom Mode such an important breakthrough is that it combines cutting edge technology with an attractive business model that will open up entirely new commercial opportunities for service providers, enabling them in particular, to offer the latest broadband IP-based services using existing network infrastructure.”

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