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Next Level Unwraps VDSL Sidecar

Next Level Communications has unveiled an ultra-compact universal services access multiplexer that it said will give telcos a better picture for digital subscriber line (DSL)-based service.

The carrier-grade, 50-pound universal service access multiplexer (USAM) single shelf enclosure can allow telcos to add very high data rate DSL (VDSL) or asymmetric DSL (ADSL) video services without having to replace the existing DSL access multiplexers that already handle voice and data.

The sidecar unit — which incorporates the same technology as Next Level's full-sized USAMs — simply bolts alongside existing DSL access multiplexer (DSLAM) cabinets to handle the video traffic, according to Geoff Burke, Next Level's director of marketing services. Because of its size, it can also be mounted on a pole or wall in a multitenant building.

"Rather than paying even tens of thousands of dollars to tear out old stuff and put in new — or to put in a large, expensive hardened cabinet — you can deploy one of these small things and it gets the job done," he said.

The unit's small size allows existing customers to install it in the basement of a multiple dwelling unit, or attach it to outlying DSLAMs to extend video service into adjacent territories. In the future, telcos that use the higher-bitrate VDSL scheme may also able to extend service to high-definition TV formats.

Next Level came up with the idea while building compact, subterranean enclosures for its USAM controller, and realized if the gear worked underground, it could easily work above ground as well.

"In a sense we almost discovered it by thinking about it in a different way," Burke said.

The unit is in commercial trials with several rural independent telcos, including CL TEL in Iowa, the Washington County Rural Telephone Cooperative in Indiana and the South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative in Kentucky.

"We really don't have to trial it — it is the same product that everybody knows," Burke said. "It is just a matter of how people are going to use it in their applications.

"About half of our folks are right now are looking at it for pure overlays — quickly accelerating into adjacent communities and those sorts of things — and the others are looking at it to expand their footprints to reach their whole service area."

The unit has a list price of about $3,500. It is expected to be available on a limited basis in November, and fully available by 2003.