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“Is DSL Finally Dying?” No!

Jeff Heynan at Infonetics reported a double-digit drop in DSL equipment sales, inspiring Dan O’Shea at Telephony to headline “Is DSL Finally Dying?” Both note that DSL sales in Q1 were actually ahead of the same quarter last year. Yet Dan writes “Fiber is the future.” Given that less than 30% of the U.S. is likely to be served by fiber this decade, that’s quite a statement. Europe’s figure is similar. There’s little reason to expect much change next decade, as wireless gets increasingly central. John Cioffi was told to forget about DSL in 1990 because “fiber was the future.” I think I remember John say “fiber is the future and it always will be.” But DSL is the present for the vast majority of North America outside of Verizon territory. Europe varies by country, but DSL is likely more common than fiber across the continent for at least another decade.

Heynan does report one crucial trend: more and more Passive Optical Network (PON) going into China. The Chinese reality is hard to establish, but major fiber volume is consistent with what I’ve seen. The Chinese telcos are 80% or so government owned and the ministry has shown they can CEOs at will. They mostly run as though they are private companies, with executive careers dependent on profitability. The government wants “fiber” because “fiber is the future,” of course. The carriers have a shorter time horizon and are resisting the investment. Fiber in new builds makes sense and is becoming standard in most of the world. There are enough new builds in China to add millions of lines. It’s hard to separate fact from rumor about how much fiber is replacing DSL; readers with insight, please write or comment.

Deutsche Telekom, British Telecom, AT&T, Bell Canada, Century/Qwest and many other carriers have made clear they will use DSL, not fiber, for the majority of lines because it’s cheaper. Increasingly, that’s DSL from a neighborhood DSLAM (FTTN) with short loops that will soon be capable of 100 megabits through bonding and vectoring.

By Dave Burstein, Editor, DSL Prime

Dave Burstein has edited DSL Prime and written about broadband and Internet TV for a decade.

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