By Carmen P. Nava

That thin copper telephone line running into your home and business just got fatter.

Through a technology known as asymmetrical digital subscriber line or ADSL millions of telephone users in California now have access to something that was largely unavailable before: a lightning quick link to the Internet over a single phone line.

ADSL expands the bandwidth of copper telephone lines so data and voice can travel together seamlessly. In short, computer users can make or receive a telephone call or send a fax while staying connected to the Internet.

The ADSL technology is especially suited to telecommuters, home-based offices and small- and medium-sized businesses for its lower cost, high speed and wide-ranging applications. There's no requirement for more costly specialty access lines that may outstrip a business' needs, and ADSL offers secure, always-on access to the Internet or corporate networks at speeds 50 times faster than conventional analog modems, which typically operate at speeds of 28.8 kilobits per second.

With Pacific Bell's recent announcement of widespread deployment of the technology, ADSL service is now being offered in scores of California communities, including Los Angeles. Consumers can choose how fat they want their digital pipelines to be from the blazing speed of 384 Kbps to a lightning-quick 1.54 Mbps.

The differences in speeds are astounding, and the quick connections solve the problem of the World Wide Wait. By comparison, it would take a 28.8 Kbps modem 41 minutes to download a short video clip (72 Mbps) that could be downloaded in 48 seconds using ADSL technology.

Customer demand for speed is likely to spur use of ADSL service. The technology competes head-to-head with cable modems for Internet access, but ADSL has the advantage of providing customers with their own secure, high-speed, point-to-point connection. A cable modem connection, on the other hand, is structured similarly to a LAN, or Local Area Network, meaning that the data you receive or transmit passes by every other node in the system (say a neighbor's house) before it leaves the neighborhood, and that can impact bandwidth and security.

Beth Gage, a broadband consultant at TeleChoice, estimates that the North American ADSL market is expected to reach an installed base of 110,000 lines this year, 355,000 in 1999, and more than one million in 2001.

"California's high-tech industries and other factors contribute to its position as the most wired region in the United States,'' Gage said. "As mass-market DSL services become available, consumers and businesses will benefit from vastly improved Internet response times for retrieving and transmitting data.

"Eliminating the local access bandwidth bottleneck for consumers and small businesses will have definite side effects increased use of the Internet for business applications and consumer entertainment, and continued growth of new applications and services that will take advantage of new access capabilities,'' Gage said.

And the technology will only improve over time. A Universal ADSL Working Group, composed of leading telecommunications, hardware and software companies, is collaborating to develop universal standards that marry the best of the DSL technologies.

With ADSL, there is no longer a good excuse for not dialing up to the Internet or increasing your company's presence on the World Wide Web. Going online can increase customer contacts and provide a valuable research and communications tool for employees. And with ADSL, the Internet connection is always on.

Carmen Nava is a Pacific Bell regional president based in Los Angeles. For more information, call 888-884-2DSL or visit the Pacific Bell Web site at http://www.pacbell.com/products/business/fastrak/adsl/ .

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.