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New technologies could accelerate DSL

Posted April 22, 2013

If you’re a customer of AT&T’s U-verse service or have plain-old DSL Internet access, you may feel like you’re stuck in the slow lane, especially compared to your friends and neighbors who have cable Internet access. But you soon may be getting a speed boost.

Through a combination of existing and emerging technologies,  providers starting as soon as this year are expected to increase their Internet speeds up to 100 megabits per second or more, which is comparable to the top rates offered today by Comcast and other cable Internet providers – and a lot faster than most consumers actually use today.

The difference in speeds offered by DSL providers and cable operators “is pretty big right now and is getting wider,” noted Teresa Mastrangelo, an analyst at Broadbandtrends, an industry analysis and consulting firm. But she added that next-generation of DSL technologies will “help close the gap.”

DSL’s big boost is expected to come from two technologies called bonding and vectoring.

With bonding, a DSL provider sends signals over multiple phone lines rather than using just one. By using two phone lines to deliver DSL, rather than just one, providers can effectively double Internet speeds, industry experts say.

And they can do it fairly easily, without having to upgrade their networks or, in many cases, lay down new wire to homes. Many newer American homes already have multiple lines installed, and many older ones had second lines added in the 1980s and 1990s for things like fax machines and dedicated dial-up Internet access. In many cases, those extra lines aren’t being used today and could be used to deliver higher speed Internet access.

Unlike bonding, vectoring is still in development. The technology essentially involves compensating for the noise and interference on or around phone lines. Vectoring, which is being developed by companies including Redwood City, Calif.-based ASSIA, could help boost DSL speeds to up to 100 megabits per second or more, experts say. It also is expected to greatly increase the speed at which consumers can upload data from their computers to services such as Facebook or YouTube.

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