Virtual Access Resolves DSL Blame Game

The blame game that goes on when a business' Digital Subscriber Line is down sounds a little like a playground squabble.

The blame game that goes on when a business Digital Subscriber Line is down sounds a little like a playground squabble.

"The service provider did it!"

"No, the carrier did it!"

"No, it was the telephone companys fault!"

"I want my mommy!"

The whole situation can be downright immature, but then again, some would say, so is the Internet. Experts usually blame the situation on non-interoperable equipment and a nascent technology, but customers just want their problem fixed. Now.

Hoping to take advantage of this struggle is Virtual Access, which has designed a Digital Subscriber Line router that peers through the network to find exactly where the problem is. And while general-purpose DSL routers have proliferated, Virtual Access has no problem coming late to market with one of its own. In fact, it wouldnt have it any other way.

One could blame Virtual Access tardiness on the travel time from Ascot, England, where it is based, but the company claims it was done on purpose. "Most people focus on designing hardware thats very cheap, very quick and very easy," says Philip Smith, vice president of business development at Virtual Access.

"We spent a little more time understanding the issues related with the technology, so, by the time we enter the market, we understand what customers want."

The router, which Virtual Access stoically calls a DSL Service Managed Gateway, resembles a typical business-class router, but it includes indicators for monitoring different components of the network. It also coordinates with server software hosted by the Internet service provider, so it can diagnose problems in the network.

After reviewing the router, Gary Hewitt, project development manager at British Telecommunications, says the gateway is designed with "the service provider in mind." Virtual Access has made a splash with some of the larger DSL providers in the U.S. as well, such as Qwest Communications International.

The market for DSL routers has been dominated by 3Com, Cisco Systems, Efficient Networks and Netopia, which was recently acquired by Proxim. There are also companies such as Hekimian, recently acquired by Spirent Communications, that diagnose network problems without using a router such as the Service Managed Gateway.

Smith says future incarnations of Virtual Access device will function as integrated access devices, converting voice as well as data into packets for transmission over an Internet Protocol backbone.