Voice-driven DSL service is coming to East Coast

Voice-driven DSL service is coming to East Coast

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

Competitive local exchange carrier Network Plus Corp. plans to deploy digital subscriber line service on the East Coast with voice, not data, as the driving application.

'Data sells, but voice pays,'' said Sundi Sundaresh, president and chief executive officer of Jetstream Communications Inc. of Los Gatos, Calif., the company providing the voice gateways.

Network Plus of Quincy, Mass., expects its symmetrical DSL service to attract small offices that need only three to eight phone lines. SDSL can supply as many as 16 lines together with high-speed data access over a single copper wire. Company officials said they could beat Bell Atlantic Corp. and BellSouth Corp. rates by up to 30 percent.

'We're not testing, we're deploying,'' said James J. Crowley, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Network Plus.

The company will equip 300 telephone company central offices for SDSL over the next two years, supplying digital bandwidth up to 1 Mbps in each direction over a single line.

The first installations are in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Service is expected in Georgia and Florida by the end of the year.

Company officials called it the largest deployment so far of voice and data service over DSL.

'We have not historically gone into the government market,'' Crowley said, but he said small government offices fit the target audience.

Calling on competition

The General Services Administration has begun obtaining competitive local telephone service for urban agencies through a series of Metropolitan Area Acquisitions. The Federal Technology Service awarded AT&T Corp. nonmandatory contracts for New York, Chicago and San Francisco in the first MAA round, and a half-dozen bidders have qualified for a second round late this year.

Network Plus must collocate its equipment at regional Bell companies' central offices. Network Plus had 20 central offices equipped for DSL in September and expects to have 100 offices equipped by the end of the year, going up to 300 by 2001.

Voice is the primary service of the nation's 230 competitive local carriers, said Kumar Shah, vice president for marketing of AccessLan Communications Inc., the company providing DSL access modules for the system. He said the economy of voice service over DSL will make it important to local carriers that rely on voice to pay the bills.

'Internet access alone is not going to cut it'' as a driver for DSL, he said.

The system being implemented by Network Plus uses Jetstream's Integrated Access Device to aggregate voice, fax and data lines at the customer premises. A hub plugs multiple computers into data access. The device connects over the local loop to the PacketLoop-2000 DSL access module from AccessLan. At the central office, a Jetstream CPX-1000 voice-over-DSL gateway peels off the voice traffic and sends it to the carrier's voice switch.

Data traffic continues on to a data network from the central office's DSLAM, or DSL access multiplexer.

Network Plus also provides Internet access through PacketLoop-50 and PacketLoop-200 customer premises equipment. Crowley said data brings in only a small part of the company's revenues now, but he added that customers are demanding better data access than they now get with dial-up modems and that DSL bundled with voice will be a good combination.

Qualifying the regional Bell company's local loop for digital traffic is the biggest challenge, Crowley said.

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