Toy Box: Teeny tiny DSLAM rocks boat

DSLAMs. Know what they are? They're the boxy devices that telcos put in exchanges to allow home users to get DSL services like JetStream.

DSLAMs. Know what they are? They're the boxy devices that telcos put in exchanges to allow home users to get DSL services like JetStream.

Generally speaking, these beasties are the size of a small fridge, cost a packet to buy and install and more to run. Another issue is that telcos tend to oversubscribe users, so if you suddenly find your connection speed is slow it may be because you're fighting for space with other users.

Enter Ericsson, with its ethernet DSL box.

DSLAMs, you see, traditionally use ATM to connect from the DSLAM to the switch -- the "second mile". The first mile is that length from your house to the DSLAM, and while ATM is good at that, it's not exactly cheap.

Ethernet, however, is cheap as chips. How cheap? Try half the price of ATM bandwidth. Nice one.

But what's really impressive is the size of the damned thing. It's not a fridge, or a beer fridge, or even a six pack. It's the size of a video tape. It serves up to 10 users, each getting 10Mbit/s each, which is actually more than DSL runs at in New Zealand. Telcos can buy these things in smaller increments than shelling out for those monster DSLAMs, potentially making rollouts cheaper and more cost-effective.

Ericsson's going to be talking to the non-Telecom owners of copper lines about these puppies -- Telecom has signed a deal with Alcatel.

And just think: if the commissioner does unbundle the local loop, all the second-tier telcos will be looking to install their own DSLAMs in exchanges. These teeny tiny DSLAMs could be just the ticket.

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