December 1998

Q & A With Hans-Erhard Reiter of the ADSL Forum

Copper Applications in Electronics & Communications


ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) is a technology which enables ordinary voice-grade copper telephone wires to also carry high-speed data traffic. An important organization promoting this new technology is the ADSL Forum. Innovations recently interviewed Hans-Erhard Reiter, the President and Chairman of the ADSL Forum to get his perspective on how ADSL is doing.

Innovations: What is the ADSL Forum?
Hans-Erhard Reiter: The ADSL Forum is a global Industry Association, set up to promote the introduction and deployment of Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Lines. This technology, developed in the USA, has already significantly stimulated the stock markets with its promise to re-use the existing copper infrastructure of telecom operators. In brief, it provides high-speed broadband access to information resources such as the Internet, using the existing copper wires from the home and the office.

Innovations: What are its objectives?
Hans-Erhard Reiter: To create a mass market for ADSL. This means that the ADSL Forum, in its various working committees is putting the best of the industries' competence to work together to make sure that all the technical solutions are provided to enable a smooth development of ADSL towards a mass market. Additionally, the ADSL Forum works hard on promoting the technology and its potential.

Innovations: How does it accomplish these objectives?
Hans-Erhard Reiter: By proactively promoting ADSL and by publishing Technical Recommendations.

Innovations: How many members does the ADSL Forum have? What is its share of world companies who are involved with ADSL?
Hans-Erhard Reiter: Currently, the ADSL Forum has just over 300 members. All leading Telecom Operators (worldwide), all leading telecom system suppliers, semiconductor manufacturers, PC- and software industry, and many start-up companies are members of the ADSL Forum. They come from all continents with the majority of them being from the US and from Europe.

Innovations: How quickly is ADSL being deployed?
Hans-Erhard Reiter: From a technical point of view, ADSL is ready for deployment. Also, as many examples around the world prove, the business case for delivering a wide range of new and advanced services over ADSL is quite strong. The issues that are slowing down ADSL deployment today are mostly of a regulatory nature. Roll-out in the USA and in Europe is accelerating.

Innovations: What have been user responses when offered ADSL?
Hans-Erhard Reiter: Users I spoke to have been overwhelmed by the performance and they never want to hear about "the old (dial-up modem) days" again.

Innovations: What advantages does ADSL have versus cable modem?
Hans-Erhard Reiter: Cable Modems, essentially, use contention based access to the cable tree that connects generally around 250 customers to the CATV headend. Security is a major concern here. And as the number of cable modems served on any given cable tree increases, customers will start experiencing performance degradations, since capacity that seems so abundant with only a few connected will not suffice.

Innovations: What obstacles does ADSL face?
Hans-Erhard Reiter: As I said above, the biggest obstacle to massive roll-out in many countries are regulatory issues, mostly around interconnection, unbundling, and co-location and respective tariffs.

Innovations: What are the future opportunities?
Hans-Erhard Reiter: Being "networked" will play an increasingly important role. This means that we will take bandwidth without (perceived) restrictions for granted, we will be "always online", and we will take advantage of a host of new services that we cannot even imagine today.

The opportunity here is to use the existing copper access lines, and those still to be built, to provide these services via ADSL and thus "give a new lease on the life of copper" in times when normal telephone calls are increasingly done via cellular phones, etc.

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