Carrier System : Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)

Digital subscriber line is the transmission of digital information, usually on a copper wire pair. Although the transmitted information is in digital form, the transmission medium is usually an analog carrier signal (or the combination of many analog carrier signals) that is modulated by the digital information signal.

Digital subscriber line (DSL) was first used in the 1960s to describe the T-1 circuits that were extended to the customer premises. Later the same term was used to describe ISDN basic rate interface (BRI) (2B+D, 144 Kbps) and primary rates interface (PRI) (23B+D, 1.544 Mbps). There are several different digital subscriber line technologies. Each of these DSL technologies usually has a prefix to indicate the specific variant of DSL technology. Hence, the “x” in xDSL indicates that there are many forms of xDSL technology.

DSL transmission allows high-speed data transmission over existing twisted pair telephone wires. This has the potential providing high-speed data services without the burden of installing new transmission lines (e.g., for Internet access).

DSL service dramatically evolved in the mid 1990s due to the availability of new modulation technology and low cost electronic circuits that can do advanced signal processing (e.g., echo canceling and multiple channel demodulation). This has increased the data transmission capability of twisted pair copper wire to over 50 Mbps.

The data transmission capability of a DSL system varies based on the distance of the cable, type of cable used, and modulation technology. There are several different DSL technologies. Each of the DSL technologies mixes different types of transmission technologies to satisfy a specific business need. Some DSL systems allow simultaneous digital and analog transmission and are compatible with analog POTS systems.

Figure 1 shows a basic DSL system. This diagram shows that the key to DSL technologies is a more efficient use of the 1 MHz of bandwidth available on a single pair of copper telephone lines. A DSL system consists of compatible modems on each end of the local loop. For some systems, the DSL system allows for multiple types of transmission on a single copper pair. This includes analog or ISDN telephone (e.g., POTS) and digital communications (ADSL or VDSL). This diagram shows that there are basic trade offs for DSL systems. Generally, the longer the distance of the copper line, the lower the data rate. Distances of less than 1,000 feet can achieve data rates of over 50 Mbps.

Figure 1: Basic Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) System

The first digital subscriber lines (DSLs) were developed due to the need for cost effective quality communication over copper wire. The first digital transmission system was the T1 line. This system had a maximum distance of approximately 6,000 feet prior to needing repeaters.

The T1 digital transmission system used a very complex form of digital transmission. A new high-speed digital subscriber line technology was developed to replace T1 transmission technology. HDSL systems increased the distance that high-speed digital signals could be transmitted without the user of a repeater/amplifier. The HDSL system did require 2 (or 3) pairs of wires to allow simultaneous (send and receive) up to 2 Mbps of data transmission. To conserve the number of copper pairs for data transmission, symmetrical digital subscriber line (SDSL) technology was developed. Although SDSL systems offered lower data rates than HDSL, only 2 wire pairs were required. Since SDSL was developed, the HDSL system has evolved to a 2nd generation (HDSL2) that allows the use of 2 wire pair for duplex transmission with reduced emissions (lower egress). New efficient modulation technology used by ADSL systems dramatically increased the data transmission rates from the central office to the customer to over 6 Mbps (some ADSL systems to 8 Mbps). To take advantage of integrated services digital network (ISDN) equipment and efficiency, an offshoot of ISDN technology that was adapted for the local loop developed called ISDN digital subscriber line (IDSL). Asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) systems evolved to rate adaptive digital subscriber line (RADSL) allow the data rate to be automatically or manually changed by the service provider. To simplify the installation of consumer based DSL equipment, and low data transmission offshoot of ADSL developed that is called ADSL-Lite. Using similar technology as the ADSL system, very high-speed digital subscriber line (VDSL) was created to provide up to 52 Mbps data transfer rates over very short distances.

Figure 2 shows the evolution of DSL systems. This diagram shows that high-speed digital subscriber line technology has been readily available since the 1970s. In the late 1990’s, the addition of advanced signal processing technology allowed DSL technology to rapidly increase transmission speed to over 50 Mbps in short distances.

Figure 2: Evolution of DSL

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)


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