Of all the up-and-coming technologies, ADSL seems to be the most suitable for small-business environments, according to the experts. "Businesses will be the only ones able to afford ADSL initially, so it will make a lot of sense for small offices," says Abner Germanow, research analyst at International Data Corp., an information technology research firm based in Framingham, Massachusetts.
ADSL delivers data at slower speeds than cable does, but it still provides very rapid access, with speeds of up to 8 Mbps. Like ISDN, ADSL is a digital access technology, so it provides a more reliable connection than analog. Another benefit of ADSL is that it uses the traditional copper phone lines that phone companies already have in place, which means it's less expensive to provide. And consumers don't need to invest in a new line.
Unfortunately, ADSL availability is sporadic at best. In many cities, ADSL remains in trial stages among a small number of users. Some phone companies, however, have begun to launch full ADSL service in select cities. For instance, US West recently launched ADSL service with access speeds of up to 7 Mbps in 40 cities, including Minneapolis, Portland, Salt Lake City and Seattle; it should be available in all 40 cities by the time you read this. Other telecommunications companies, such as Bell Atlantic and SBC Communications, plan to offer ADSL service on a very limited basis by year-end.
In the meantime, telecommunications companies and technology vendors are working to release a variation of this modem technology called "ADSL lite" to demonstrate that the service is viable. With data transmission speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps, the technology is about 30 times faster than 56K modems, although significantly slower than full-speed ADSL. At press time, interoperability problems were still being worked on; ADSL lite should be widely available by summer 1999. 3Com says it will add ADSL lite to its product line this year. Other vendors plan to release ADSL lite products by year-end, as well.
When several of these modem technologies enter a market around the same time, tough competition is bound to follow. So far, the arrival of cable and ADSL has spurred better service as well as lower prices, and experts expect this trend to continue. Since all these modem technologies will most likely be available in your area eventually, the best approach is to be open to trying out new technologies--while carefully considering the best solution for your specific business needs.
International Data Corp., (508) 872-8200, http://www.idc.com