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    Residential DSL Tutorial

Broadband Internet in the Home with DSL


  Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is a broadband transmission line developed for use with existing physical (copper) phone line runs. DSL was developed since the early 90's but was never brought to market because of the many constraints it involved then for both users and providers.

 However, technology today is winning the battle against these limitations. DSL is being successfully deployed more and more everywhere in North America and the world.

 DSL requires excellent structured phone wiring in the residential environment if part of it is to be used for your premise DSL equipments. It surely requires the physical copper lines from the Central Office to the home to be in optimum conditions.

 DSL requires a maximum of 3.5 miles of copper wire runs between the home and the providing Telephone Central Office (CO). It might not work well for you even if you are at about 2.5 miles to the CO. At that distance the bit rate drop might be significant and performance fairly inconsistent. Therefore, in a word, you might not be eligible for DSL for the time being. 

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   At this time, however, various CO equipment providers are delivering to Telcos DSL equipments that increase the loop threshold beyond 3.5 miles or otherwise significantly improve data rate past 2.5 miles!

 DSL provides simultaneous voice and data transmission over the twisted pair. However the voice network provider and the data network provider are not necessarily the same. If you order DSL from an ISP, the ISP will contact and contract with your local telephone company to install DSL equipments at your termination at the Central Office and inside your premises as well.

 Your local telephone company will send out a field technician to run end-to-end tests on your physical copper phone line to determine its suitability for DSL. If your phone line complies to the distance limitation and is yet determined not to be suitable for DSL, it will be replaced by a new twisted pair at no extra cost.

  No one can guarantee at which exact bit rate your DSL line will perform. While it will certainly be much higher than the 56 Kb/s of a dial-up modem by multiple folds, it might not reach the nominal rate of your DSL line type. ADSL, which is the DSL type for the residential environment, runs at 148 Kb/s from your computer to the public network and 768 Kb/s from the network to your computer. Higher bit rates and symmetric DSL (SDSL: same high rate in both directions) are available depending on your needs.

 It might take weeks to complete the installation of your new DSL line. The phone technician might install a splitter at the demarcation point of your phone wiring, dividing your inside home wiring network into two main branches. One branch for all your voice and dial-up equipments and one other for your DSL connection. This creates what is called a splittered environment. The splitterless environment, by which DSL is delivered in full at every single home phone jack with the dial tone, is however becoming very popular.

  In a splittered environment, at the far end of the DSL branch, which will be wired by the phone technician to the location you indicate, a phone jack will be made available for plugging in your DSL modem. In a splitterless environment,  DSL will be available at all the home phone jacks and you will need to use a filter at the jacks to prevent mutual interference between the phones and the DSL carrier frequency. (The late multi-line intercom phones denominated KSU-less phones are completely incompatible with DSL splitterless environments and may still malfunction in a splittered environment. For DSL-compatible phone systems, see here.)

 You will have to configure the network connections of your system platform in order to enable it for DSL. If you have more than one desktop computer at home, you will certainly need 10BaseT or 100BaseT networking for your additional computers to ride the Internet over your DSL connection. 

 Some providers have introduced a Do-it-Yourself kit that would allow the users to do the required inside wiring by themselves, and so cut the installation time. The better you understand structured telephone wiring, the better you may help yourself with this kit.

 User feedback? A few are angry, many satisfied and many more happy. DSL technology is in its infancy, compulsive developments being underway to hastily improve it. New developments that defeat inherent constraints are have been hitting the market. Some cable modem users are not happy either about having to share bandwidth with lots of neighbors (meaning lower speed for each user), or getting frequently disconnected from the network, and at times for over 30 minutes! Also difficult to get in many older, urban buildings! Further, with cable modem, you can't straightforwardly share your internet connection with multiple home computers (requires expertise in networking)!


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