Digital Subscriber Line

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digital subscriber line

[¦dij·əd·əl səb′skrīb·ər ‚līn]
A system that provides subscribers with continuous, uninterrupted connections to the Internet over existing telephone lines, offering a choice of speeds ranging from 32 kilobits per second to more than 50 megabits per second. Abbreviated DSL.

Digital Subscriber Line

(communications, protocol)
(DSL, or Digital Subscriber Loop, xDSL - see below) A family of digital telecommunications protocols designed to allow high speed data communication over the existing copper telephone lines between end-users and telephone companies.

When two conventional modems are connected through the telephone system (PSTN), it treats the communication the same as voice conversations. This has the advantage that there is no investment required from the telephone company (telco) but the disadvantage is that the bandwidth available for the communication is the same as that available for voice conversations, usually 64 kb/s (DS0) at most. The twisted-pair copper cables into individual homes or offices can usually carry significantly more than 64 kb/s but the telco needs to handle the signal as digital rather than analog.

There are many implementation of the basic scheme, differing in the communication protocol used and providing varying service levels. The throughput of the communication can be anything from about 128 kb/s to over 8 Mb/s, the communication can be either symmetric or asymmetric (i.e. the available bandwidth may or may not be the same upstream and downstream). Equipment prices and service fees also vary considerably.

The first technology based on DSL was ISDN, although ISDN is not often recognised as such nowadays. Since then a large number of other protocols have been developed, collectively referred to as xDSL, including HDSL, SDSL, ADSL, and VDSL. As yet none of these have reached very wide deployment but wider deployment is expected for 1998-1999.

2Wire DSL provider lookup.

["Data Cooks, But Will Vendors Get Burned?", "Supercomm Spotlight On ADSL" & "Lucent Sells Paradine", Wilson & Carol, Inter@ctive Week Vol. 3 #13, p1 & 6, June 24 1996].
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