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The company has also hired Telcordia to, as Ketch put it, “study the impact of this technology in a binder group…to work over our shoulder make sure it makes sense to tier-one telcos.”

Ketch acknowledges that, in order to be useful, Rim’s technology would need to be deployed both in access networks and in customer premises gear, underscoring the need for standardizing the nascent technology.

“As far as the market goes, they’re sailing into the wind,” said Kermit Ross, a consultant with Millenium Marketing. “Given that the phone companies have a mix of [DSL] platforms in their networks as it is and a mix of different suppliers of DSL modems, there’s an awful lot of current flowing against making a thing like this work.”

To develop an industry standard for its technology, dubbed Internet Protocol Subscriber Line (IPSL), Rim has convened a group called the IPSL Special Interest Group, or IPSLSIG. eSilicon is one of the few publicly named members of the group, which plans to meet a few times a year (its next meeting, slated for Europe, is being scheduled now, Ketch said).

“We invented IPSL, but we’re committed to making it available to other vendors because we’d like to see the ITU-T bring it in and standardize it,” Ketch said.

“Getting IPSL standardized will be one of the biggest hurdles for Rim Semi as it looks to bring its technology to market,” said Erik Keith, an analyst with Current Analysis.

Rim’s technology also requires IP DSLAMs rather than the legacy model based on ATM, though the majority of DSLAMs deployed today are IP-based..

Rim is currently testing a field-programmable version of its chip in the networks of small telcos such as Oregon’s Monroe Telephone. But with the help of partner eSilicon, Rim expects to introduce a less expensive ASIC version commercially this year.

Ketch imagines Rim’s gear making it possible for carriers to add more high-bandwidth service such as IPTV over existing copper, but he’s less certain about the technology’s potential to bring DSL to areas currently beyond reach. “That’s one application for the technology, but I think there are some question marks about the economics of it,” he said.

Meanwhile, vendors across the industry are working on separate efforts to increase the performance of DSL and copper. Established vendors are fine-tuning technologies such as Dynamic Spectrum Management and VDSL2 pair-bonding (Ketch says IPSL could potentially work in conjunction with both those technologies), while newcomers like Xtendwave and Phylogy promise their own new approaches.

“Since FTTP is prohibitively expensive for most telcos, getting more out of the existing copper access network is their most cost-effective option," Keith said.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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