If DSL service does indeed emerge as the most promising, most ubiquitous access technology, then look for Asian and European countries to emerge the leaders in the race to become the best-networked societies in the world.
The Yankee Group estimates that the number of European DSL subscribers will jump from 3.2 million this year to 22.5 million by 2005, and projects the Asian market will vault from 6 million to 21 million. The U.S. market is expected to more than triple, going from about 4.5 million subscribers to 14 million.
Rapid gains in Europe will be driven in large part by pent-up demand, high population densities that make central office gear investments a more sure thing and by the use of Symmetric High-bit-rate DSL service. Also known as G.SHDSL, the standard is touted for business-class service in the U.S., but likely will be used in general deployment in Europe. G.SHDSLs two-way speed of 2.3 megabits per second is voice-friendly, and the technology can be extended to locations far from the CO.
"My personal take is that G.SHDSL uptake will be much faster in Europe, because they were willing to wait and start on a standard," says Mahendra Soneji, product marketing director of Polycom, an integrated access device maker.
G.SHDSL will be adopted slowly in the U.S. because most carriers have already implemented Symmetric DSL, which provides quality and speed similar to G.SHDSL, but is not a standard, interoperable technology.
Although every European telecom company is now seeking bids for voice-over-broadband gear, the great unknown remains the issue of deregulation.
"The question in Europe will be whether deregulation will be enforced and followed up in a way to allow competitive carriers to install and operate broadband services," says Hans Schwarz, executive vice president and general manager of Polycoms Network Access Products Division. "As we know, it took a while for the U.S. to get there. Korea has been No. 1 in forcing the incumbent carriers to give up local loops to allow competing carriers to offer service. With British Telecommunications and Deutsche Telekom, there have been major complaints that they have been slow to give up the loops."