Telecommunications carriers and local exchange carriers (LECs) need to choose cost-effective technology that allows them to offer new services and expand their revenue potential. For that reason, they need smart digital subscriber line access multiplexers (DSLAMs) because they are cost-effective and support advanced Internet Protocol (IP) applications.
In the last two years, engineers have designed various types of DSLAMs. Differentiated by the interfaces used to bring in data traffic from end users, the multiplexers fall into two types: dumb DSLAMs and smart DSLAMs.
Dumb DSLAMs house their routing capabilities outside the box in external modem-like forms. Unlike dumb DSLAMs, smart DSLAMs support a more-integrated approach in which routing capabilities are incorporated within the box, making it a better choice of the two.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 played an important role in the growth of the smart DSLAM's popularity. The FCC promoted a more-level telecom playing field for competitors by allowing switching in the central office.
Smart DSLAMs are best suited for central-office switching support because they are single devices that can terminate data over DSL lines, switch and/or route the data, and then transmit it through the network port that connects to an Internet gateway.
When deploying a smart DSLAM, no additional equipment must be bought, since all of the components needed to deliver DSL services are contained in one box. That reduction of equipment not only results in a cost saving for carriers and LECs, but also results in a reduction in network complexity, management and technology training. Smart DSLAMs also occupy less of a telecommunications closet's real estate, since there are fewer pieces of equipment used in the network.
Not only do smart DSLAMs make economic sense for carriers, but they are also the only DSLAMs that can support emerging advanced IP applications in strong demand by end users. Dumb DSLAMs are limited in their capabilities because the majority of them do not speak IP. If a DSLAM is unable to speak any type of IP, an external router is needed to make routing decisions on how the IP packet is to be processed. The integrated intelligence of smart DSLAMs is required to optimize the delivery of IP applications.
As the DSL industry grows, it is crucial for carriers and LECs to choose cost-effective technology that will let them offer new services and expand their revenue potential. In the long run, smart DSLAMs are the choice for carriers who want to offer new services and maintain strong positions in the DSL market.
Steve Ide is the President of Interspeed Inc. (North Andover, Mass.).