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How fast is ADSL?

ADSL provides speeds up to 8 Mbps downstream (to the user) and up to 1 Mbps upstream, depending upon line length and loop and line conditions.

An ADSL circuit connects an ADSL modem on each end of a twisted-pair telephone line, creating three information channels -- a high speed downstream channel, a medium speed duplex channel, depending on the implementation of the ADSL architecture, and a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) or an ISDN channel. The POTS/ISDN channel is split off from the digital modem by filters, thus guaranteeing uninterrupted POTS/ISDN, even if ADSL fails. The high speed channel ranges from 1.5 to 6.1 Mbps, while duplex rates range from 16 to 832 kbps. Each channel can be submultiplexed to form multiple, lower rate channels, depending on the system.

ADSL modems provide data rates consistent with North American and European digital hierarchies and can be purchased with various speed ranges and capabilities. The minimum configuration provides 1.5 or 2.0 Mbps downstream and a 16 kbps duplex channel; others provide rates of 6.1 Mbps and 64 kbps duplex. Products with downstream rates up to 8 Mbps and duplex rates up to 640 kbps are available today. ADSL modems will accommodate ATM transport with variable rates and compensation for ATM overhead, as well as IP protocols.

Downstream data rates depend on a number of factors, including the length of the copper line, its wire gauge, presence of bridged taps, and cross-coupled interference. Line attenuation increases with line length and frequency, and decreases as wire diameter increases. Ignoring bridged taps, ADSL will perform as follows:

Data Rate Wire Gauge Distance Wire Size Distance
1.5 or 2 Mbps 24 AWG 18,000 ft 0.5 mm 5.5 km
1.5 or 2 Mbps 26 AWG 15,000 ft 0.4 mm 4.6 km
6.1 Mbps 24 AWG 12,000 ft 0.5 mm 3.7 km
6.1 Mbps 26 AWG 9,000 ft 0.4 mm 2.7 km

While the measure varies from provider to provider, these capabilities can cover up to 95% of a loop plant depending on the desired data rate. Customers beyond these distances can be reached with fiber-based digital loop carrier systems. As these DLC systems become commercially available, telephone companies will offer virtually ubiquitous access in a relatively short time.

Many applications enabled by ADSL involve digital compressed video. As a real time signal, digital video cannot use link or network level error control procedures commonly found in data communications systems. ADSL modems therefore incorporate forward error correction that dramatically reduces errors caused by impulse noise. Error correction on a symbol-by-symbol basis also reduces errors caused by continuous noise coupled into a line.

Last updated on 2001-08-02 14:00:00 -0700, by Shalom Craimer

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