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This chapter is from the book

Prevalence Of Cable Modems and DSL in Major U.S. Markets

Cable modems and DSL are somewhat prevalent in major U.S. markets. They are, nevertheless, a quantum leap in Internet access, putting an end to the World Wide Wait.

All the hype about instant information on the Internet doesn't mean much when you've got a Web page downloading so slowly that you have to keep yourself busy by flipping through the Sunday paper or glancing at the headlines on CNN. There's an apt, if overused, name for this trickling of info: the World Wide Wait. As previously discussed, now two competing technologies (cable modems and DSL) would like to bring high-speed Internet access into your home, ending the wait with speeds up to 300 times faster than what's possible with standard modems. For as little as $40 per month, these next-generation methods of connecting to the Internet promise to transform the cyberspace experience. Think video-on-demand or live stock tickers. Both are possible if you've got the bandwidth or connection speed.

Chances are, however, such access is not available in your area yet; cable enterprises, phone enterprises, and Internet service providers are in the early stages of offering cable modems and DSL. If you have access to one, you are considered one of the lucky ones. If you have a choice between the two, you're very, very lucky. But DSL launches are under way or planned by Bell Atlantic 18, GTE 19, and U.S. West 20, and with cable enterprises expecting competition from DSL, you're likely to hear about high-speed access coming to the home of a friend—and maybe even your own.

Skeptical? Witness AT&T's 21 acquisition of cable TV giant Tele-Communications, Inc. 22, a merger spurred by the prospect of offering new services (and packaging existing ones) through high-speed lines into the home. The deal was a $70 billion vote of confidence in the Internet's transformation from a frequently slow and frustrating means of communication into a mature, consumer-friendly medium. Other providers now have a newly energized mega-competitor in this arena, and that's likely to mean a faster rollout of high-speed access.

But just in case you think this is another overhyped upgrade, like the much-ballyhooed 56Kbps modem, think again. The advances in standard modems have been incremental: from 14.4Kbps to 28.8Kbps to 33.6Kbps to the current champ, 56Kbps. Supercharge all that, and imagine the switch from 33.6Kbps to, say, 1.5Mbps. That's 45 times faster, meaning that a 5.6MB game would take about 30 seconds to download instead of 22 minutes. Or, the hundreds of pages you're viewing in a single session of Web browsing will appear without delay, as if the pages were stored on your hard drive. Aside from speed, both cable modems and DSL offer another advantage: an always on connection to the Internet that doesn't tie up your phone line. There's a lot of pent-up demand for this.


DSL runs over existing phone lines, but it still allows you to make calls while you're online.

To check on availability, call your local cable enterprise or (for DSL) the phone enterprises and Internet service providers in your area. Costs can vary wildly because most high-speed-access providers currently face no competition. Cable modem access typically runs about $30–$50 per month; DSL is costlier, and its pricing is more complex. For cable modem access, local cable systems package an Internet service provider (@Home 23 is the leader) with the speedy line into your home. With DSL, you're likely to have the option of choosing an Internet service provider and the level of speed, from around 256Kbps on up. Not all ISPs offer DSL or cable modem options yet, so check with your current provider to see if high-speed access is available.


With either one, you avoid the $10 to $15 per month that Internet users ordinarily spend on an extra telephone line.

Consider the DSL offerings of U.S. West, now available in 60 cities, including Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Minneapolis–St. Paul. For $40 per month, you'll get DSL that runs at 256Kbps, or you can combine it with U.S. West Internet access for $59.95. Want more speed? Like 512Kbps? That will cost you $65 a month, plus $39.95 for Internet access. Other DSL providers have similar plans, commonly offered in tiers for casual users and enterprise customers. For the time being, at least, cable modems may be considered the better value.

Expect to pay installation fees of up to $250 for either one; a technician has to visit your home to handle the wiring. A high-speed-access modem may cost as much as $300, but some providers may have a rental option or even include modem fees in the monthly rate.

Problems? The biggest headache is that it's not available in all areas yet and, more importantly, may not be available in your area.

Nevertheless, will DSL service for faster access to the Internet catch on with enterprise users? Analysts say that it will, but users aren't as sure.

Unsure Users

Many telecom managers are still waiting for the success stories with DSL technology. Several respected consulting enterprises have projected phenomenal growth in DSL technology and service. Gartner Group, Inc., in Stamford, Connecticut, predicts annual growth rates of more than 500%, with more than 3 million DSL lines installed by 2003—up from fewer than 70,000 now. Analysts' confidence in the market's growth is based on the strong need for faster connections to the Internet sought by consumers and enterprise users who telecommute or work in remote locations.


The most-discussed variant of DSL, Asymmetric DSL (ADSL), boasts downstream speeds that are more than 50 times faster than 56Kbps connections. But analysts say the upstream speeds are much slower, making ADSL less attractive for enterprise users who need to push large files to colleagues and enterprise partners.

Several carriers are deploying or testing Symmetric DSL (SDSL) to solve the need for fast upstream speeds using equipment by start-up vendors such as AccessLan Communications, Inc., in San Jose, California, or Copper Mountain Networks, Inc., in Palo Alto, California. Established networking vendors such as Cisco Systems, Inc., 24 and Bay Networks, Inc., 25 have also entered the arena.

Competitors in the SDSL market hope to attract customers with lower price and convenience of installation, compared with installing T1 lines. AccessLan will give enterprises a 1.5Mbps SDSL connection at lower cost than a typical T1 (1.544Mbps) connection from a telephone enterprise. Therefore, if DSL spreads as quickly as anticipated, there will be pressure on telcos to reduce their T1 prices.

Another factor is how long it takes an enterprise to install its own on-premises SDSL equipment, compared with waiting for a T1 connection. With SDSL, a small router is installed at the enterprise and an access concentrator is installed in a carrier's central office. The two are connected by existing twisted-pair phone cable. The process may take only a day, compared with waiting, in many occasions, several weeks for a carrier to install a T1 line.

Most users would consider using cable modems for faster speeds, if they were available. Cable modems won't have as much growth among enterprises as DSL, partly because office parks often are not commonly wired for cable.

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