G.Lite could kick DSL into high gear
June 28, 1999
by Nancy Weil
(IDG) -- The new G.Lite standard for Digital Subscriber Line technology has the potential to push high-speed Internet access into homes, but if vendors have their way it also will induce consumers to buy PCs with faster processors.
Such purchases are key to garnering support for the G.Lite standard, formally ratified this week in Geneva by the International Telecommunications Union.
Vendors and the ADSL Forum hailed the vote as significant, even if anticipated, and predicted that it would push the deployment of DSL.
"High-speed pipes drive demand for faster processors," says Mark Peden, an ambassador with the ADSL Forum, which consists of some 300 companies in the computer, telecommunications, and networking fields.
Mighty Intel has tossed its chips into the G.Lite ring, as have other hardware and software vendors, as well as networking companies that provide equipment to PC makers and service providers. Telecommunications carriers and Internet service providers are expected to add G.Lite support to their offerings, and PC makers are likely to begin shipping machines that incorporate the technology next quarter.
Some computers already do support G.Lite, but the technology has to be, in effect, turned on via a software download.
Same old line
G.Lite technology allows "always on" high-speed Internet access over standard copper lines at the same time as normal telephone service, eliminating the need for splitters to be installed to handle simultaneous voice and data traffic.
G.Lite supports speeds up to 1.5 megabits per second downstream from a server, with an upstream rate of 512 kilobits per second. It isn't constrained by problems found in trying to pump full-rate DSL over traditional copper wires, which might not be robust enough to handle high-speed access.
Do it yourself?
The real lure of G.Lite, though, is that consumers are supposed to be able to install the technology on their PCs themselves. That eliminates the need for service calls from the telephone company.
Telcos will be more inclined to quickly roll out G.Lite support because it is less costly for them and, therefore, for consumers. At least, that's the working theory behind G.Lite deployment. But just how easy consumers will find installation of the technology remains to be seen.
"Consumers have got their own issues with PCs," says Jeannette Noyes, an analyst at International Data Corporation.
"Many of them aren't all that comfortable with doing it themselves," she says of installing the technology. She added that consumers also will have to deal with the usual retail-channel service issues in the process.
Not always smooth
Preparing for G.Lite DSL service in the home may not be as simple as its supporters contend. For one thing, telephone jacks still need to be in the right location. Then, everything else involved in high-speed access also must work properly, as Noyes learned recently when she became a DSL user and discovered problems with an ethernet cable that stymied easy installation.
"There's just a lot of points of failure, and it's got to work the first time out," she says.
That's why vendors are doing plenty of field tests globally to work out any bugs with G.Lite before it hits the mainstream.
"There is certainly a learning curve," says Rick Moberg, chief financial officer of Aware, a DSL technology vendor.
Certain kinks only show up when the technology is in actual use. Testing in Canada with Newbridge Networks, Aware discovered a geographic quirk that affected the frequency G.Lite uses.
Canada's geographic scope "is so big that the AM radio stations crank up the signals, and those were interfering with the G.Lite signal," Moberg says. "That's something that in a million years in a lab you wouldn't [predict]."
When the problem became known, the lab crew was able to find a fix in short order, he says, adding that such field tests so far have left vendors feeling encouraged that G.Lite will indeed work.
"Those little hiccups have to be worked through," Moberg says.
"Once the PC companies are really comfortable that the phone companies are deploying this stuff, we think the dam will break and PC shipments (of machines with G.Lite technology built in) will go through the roof," Moberg adds.
Fast surfing from an armchair
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