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Asymmetric digital

subscriber line
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A gateway is commonly used to make an ADSL connection

Asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) is a type of


digital subscriber line (DSL) technology, a data
communications technology that enables faster data
transmission over copper telephone lines than a
conventional voiceband modem can provide. ADSL differs
from the less common symmetric digital subscriber line
(SDSL). In ADSL, bandwidth and bit rate are said to be
asymmetric, meaning greater toward the customer
premises (downstream) than the reverse (upstream).
Providers usually market ADSL as a service for
consumers for Internet access for primarily downloading
content from the Internet, but not serving content
accessed by others.

Overview
ADSL works by using the frequency spectrum above the
band used by voice telephone calls.[1] With a DSL filter,
often called splitter, the frequency bands are isolated,
permitting a single telephone line to be used for both
ADSL service and telephone calls at the same time. ADSL
is generally only installed for short distances from the
telephone exchange (the last mile), typically less than 4
kilometres (2 mi),[2] but has been known to exceed 8
kilometres (5 mi) if the originally laid wire gauge allows
for further distribution.

At the telephone exchange, the line generally terminates


at a digital subscriber line access multiplexer (DSLAM)
where another frequency splitter separates the voice
band signal for the conventional phone network. Data
carried by the ADSL are typically routed over the
telephone company's data network and eventually reach a
conventional Internet Protocol network.

There are both technical and marketing reasons why


ADSL is in many places the most common type offered to
home users. On the technical side, there is likely to be
more crosstalk from other circuits at the DSLAM end
(where the wires from many local loops are close to each
other) than at the customer premises. Thus the upload
signal is weakest at the noisiest part of the local loop,
while the download signal is strongest at the noisiest part
of the local loop. It therefore makes technical sense to
have the DSLAM transmit at a higher bit rate than does
the modem on the customer end. Since the typical home
user in fact does prefer a higher download speed, the
telephone companies chose to make a virtue out of
necessity, hence ADSL.

The marketing reasons for an asymmetric connection are


that, firstly, most users of internet traffic will require less
data to be uploaded than downloaded. For example, in
normal web browsing, a user will visit a number of web
sites and will need to download the data that comprises
the web pages from the site, images, text, sound files etc.
but they will only upload a small amount of data, as the
only uploaded data is that used for the purpose of
verifying the receipt of the downloaded data or any data
inputted by the user into forms etc. This provides a
justification for internet service providers to offer a more
expensive service aimed at commercial users who host
websites, and who therefore need a service which allows
for as much data to be uploaded as downloaded. File
sharing applications are an obvious exception to this
situation. Secondly internet service providers, seeking to
avoid overloading of their backbone connections, have
traditionally tried to limit uses such as file sharing which
generate a lot of uploads.

Operation

DSL SoC

Currently, most ADSL communication is full-duplex. Full-


duplex ADSL communication is usually achieved on a
wire pair by either frequency-division duplex (FDD), echo-
cancelling duplex (ECD), or time-division duplex (TDD).
FDD uses two separate frequency bands, referred to as
the upstream and downstream bands. The upstream
band is used for communication from the end user to the
telephone central office. The downstream band is used
for communicating from the central office to the end user.
 

Frequency plan for ADSL Annex A. Red area is the frequency range used
by normal voice telephony (PSTN), the green (upstream) and blue
(downstream) areas are used for ADSL.

With commonly deployed ADSL over POTS (Annex A), the


band from 26.075 kHz to 137.825 kHz is used for
upstream communication, while 138–1104 kHz is used
for downstream communication. Under the usual DMT
scheme, each of these is further divided into smaller
frequency channels of 4.3125 kHz. These frequency
channels are sometimes termed bins. During initial
training to optimize transmission quality and speed, the
ADSL modem tests each of the bins to determine the
signal-to-noise ratio at each bin's frequency. Distance
from the telephone exchange, cable characteristics,
interference from AM radio stations, and local
interference and electrical noise at the modem's location
can adversely affect the signal-to-noise ratio at particular
frequencies. Bins for frequencies exhibiting a reduced
signal-to-noise ratio will be used at a lower throughput
rate or not at all; this reduces the maximum link capacity
but allows the modem to maintain an adequate
connection. The DSL modem will make a plan on how to
exploit each of the bins, sometimes termed "bits per bin"
allocation. Those bins that have a good signal-to-noise
ratio (SNR) will be chosen to transmit signals chosen
from a greater number of possible encoded values (this
range of possibilities equating to more bits of data sent)
in each main clock cycle. The number of possibilities
must not be so large that the receiver might incorrectly
decode which one was intended in the presence of noise.
Noisy bins may only be required to carry as few as two
bits, a choice from only one of four possible patterns, or
only one bit per bin in the case of ADSL2+, and very noisy
bins are not used at all. If the pattern of noise versus
frequencies heard in the bins changes, the DSL modem
can alter the bits-per-bin allocations, in a process called
"bitswap", where bins that have become more noisy are
only required to carry fewer bits and other channels will
be chosen to be given a higher burden.

The data transfer capacity the DSL modem therefore


reports is determined by the total of the bits-per-bin
allocations of all the bins combined. Higher signal-to-
noise ratios and more bins being in use gives a higher
total link capacity, while lower signal-to-noise ratios or
fewer bins being used gives a low link capacity. The total
maximum capacity derived from summing the bits-per-bin
is reported by DSL modems and is sometimes termed
sync rate. This will always be rather misleading, as the
true maximum link capacity for user data transfer rate will
be significantly lower; because extra data are transmitted
that are termed protocol overhead, reduced figures for
PPPoA connections of around 84-87 percent, at most,
being common. In addition, some ISPs will have traffic
policies that limit maximum transfer rates further in the
networks beyond the exchange, and traffic congestion on
the Internet, heavy loading on servers and slowness or
inefficiency in customers' computers may all contribute to
reductions below the maximum attainable. When a
wireless access point is used, low or unstable wireless
signal quality can also cause reduction or fluctuation of
actual speed.

In fixed-rate mode, the sync rate is predefined by the


operator and the DSL modem chooses a bits-per-bin
allocation that yields an approximately equal error rate in
each bin.[3] In variable-rate mode, the bits-per-bin are
chosen to maximize the sync rate, subject to a tolerable
error risk.[3] These choices can either be conservative,
where the modem chooses to allocate fewer bits per bin
than it possibly could, a choice which makes for a slower
connection, or less conservative in which more bits per
bin are chosen in which case there is a greater risk case
of error should future signal-to-noise ratios deteriorate to
the point where the bits-per-bin allocations chosen are
too high to cope with the greater noise present. This
conservatism, involving a choice of using fewer bits per
bin as a safeguard against future noise increases, is
reported as the signal-to-noise ratio margin or SNR
margin.

The telephone exchange can indicate a suggested SNR


margin to the customer's DSL modem when it initially
connects, and the modem may make its bits-per-bin
allocation plan accordingly. A high SNR margin will mean
a reduced maximum throughput, but greater reliability and
stability of the connection. A low SNR margin will mean
high speeds, provided the noise level does not increase
too much; otherwise, the connection will have to be
dropped and renegotiated (resynced). ADSL2+ can better
accommodate such circumstances, offering a feature
termed seamless rate adaptation (SRA), which can
accommodate changes in total link capacity with less
disruption to communications.

Frequency spectrum of modem on ADSL line


Vendors may support usage of higher frequencies as a
proprietary extension to the standard. However, this
requires matching vendor-supplied equipment on both
ends of the line, and will likely result in crosstalk problems
that affect other lines in the same bundle.

There is a direct relationship between the number of


channels available and the throughput capacity of the
ADSL connection. The exact data capacity per channel
depends on the modulation method used.

ADSL initially existed in two versions (similar to VDSL),


namely CAP and DMT. CAP was the de facto standard for
ADSL deployments up until 1996, deployed in 90 percent
of ADSL installations at the time. However, DMT was
chosen for the first ITU-T ADSL standards, G.992.1 and
G.992.2 (also called G.dmt and G.lite respectively).
Therefore, all modern installations of ADSL are based on
the DMT modulation scheme.

Interleaving and fastpath

ISPs (but users rarely, apart from Australia where it's the
default[4]) have the option to use interleaving of packets
to counter the effects of burst noise on the telephone line.
An interleaved line has a depth, usually 8 to 64, which
describes how many Reed–Solomon codewords are
accumulated before they are sent. As they can all be sent
together, their forward error correction codes can be
made more resilient. Interleaving adds latency as all the
packets have to first be gathered (or replaced by empty
packets) and they, of course, all take time to transmit. 8
frame interleaving adds 5 ms round-trip-time, while 64
deep interleaving adds 25 ms. Other possible depths are
16 and 32.

"Fastpath" connections have an interleaving depth of 1,


that is one packet is sent at a time. This has a low latency,
usually around 10 ms (interleaving adds to it, this is not
greater than interleaved) but it is extremely prone to
errors, as any burst of noise can take out the entire packet
and so require it all to be retransmitted. Such a burst on a
large interleaved packet only blanks part of the packet, it
can be recovered from error correction information in the
rest of the packet. A "fastpath" connection will result in
extremely high latency on a poor line, as each packet will
take many retries.

Installation problems
ADSL deployment on an existing plain old telephone
service (POTS) telephone line presents some problems
because the DSL is within a frequency band that might
interact unfavourably with existing equipment connected
to the line. It is therefore necessary to install appropriate
frequency filters at the customer's premises to avoid
interference between the DSL, voice services, and any
other connections to the line (for example intruder
alarms). This is desirable for the voice service and
essential for a reliable ADSL connection.

In the early days of DSL, installation required a technician


to visit the premises. A splitter or microfilter was installed
near the demarcation point, from which a dedicated data
line was installed. This way, the DSL signal is separated
as close as possible to the central office and is not
attenuated inside the customer's premises. However, this
procedure was costly, and also caused problems with
customers complaining about having to wait for the
technician to perform the installation. So, many DSL
providers started offering a "self-install" option, in which
the provider provided equipment and instructions to the
customer. Instead of separating the DSL signal at the
demarcation point, the DSL signal is filtered at each
telephone outlet by use of a low-pass filter for voice and a
high-pass filter for data, usually enclosed in what is
known as a microfilter. This microfilter can be plugged by
an end user into any telephone jack: it does not require
any rewiring at the customer's premises.
Commonly, microfilters are only low-pass filters, so
beyond them only low frequencies (voice signals) can
pass. In the data section, a microfilter is not used
because digital devices that are intended to extract data
from the DSL signal will, themselves, filter out low
frequencies. Voice telephone devices will pick up the
entire spectrum so high frequencies, including the ADSL
signal, will be "heard" as noise in telephone terminals, and
will affect and often degrade the service in fax,
dataphones and modems. From the point of view of DSL
devices, any acceptance of their signal by POTS devices
mean that there is a degradation of the DSL signal to the
devices, and this is the central reason why these filters
are required.

A side effect of the move to the self-install model is that


the DSL signal can be degraded, especially if more than 5
voiceband (that is, POTS telephone-like) devices are
connected to the line. Once a line has had DSL enabled,
the DSL signal is present on all telephone wiring in the
building, causing attenuation and echo. A way to
circumvent this is to go back to the original model, and
install one filter upstream from all telephone jacks in the
building, except for the jack to which the DSL modem will
be connected. Since this requires wiring changes by the
customer, and may not work on some household
telephone wiring, it is rarely done. It is usually much
easier to install filters at each telephone jack that is in
use.

DSL signals may be degraded by older telephone lines,


surge protectors, poorly designed microfilters, Repetitive
Electrical Impulse Noise, and by long telephone extension
cords. Telephone extension cords are typically made with
small-gauge, multi-strand copper conductors which do
not maintain a noise-reducing pair twist. Such cable is
more susceptible to electromagnetic interference and has
more attenuation than solid twisted-pair copper wires
typically wired to telephone jacks. These effects are
especially significant where the customer's phone line is
more than 4 km from the DSLAM in the telephone
exchange, which causes the signal levels to be lower
relative to any local noise and attenuation. This will have
the effect of reducing speeds or causing connection
failures.

Transport protocols
ADSL defines three "Transmission protocol-specific
transmission convergence (TPS-TC)" layers:[5]

Synchronous Transport Module (STM), which allows


the transmission of frames of the Synchronous Digital
Hierarchy (SDH)
Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM)
Packet Transfer Mode (starting with ADSL2, see below)

In home installation, the prevalent transport protocol is


ATM. On top of ATM, there are multiple possibilities of
additional layers of protocols (two of them are
abbreviated in a simplified manner as "PPPoA" or
"PPPoE"), with the all-important TCP/IP at layers 4 and 3
respectively of the OSI model providing the connection to
the Internet.

ADSL standards

Frequency plan for common ADSL standards and annexes.


Legend
   POTS/ISDN
   Guard band
   Upstream
   Downstream ADSL, ADSL2, ADSL2+
   Downstream ADSL2+ only
Version Standard name Common name Downstream rate Upstream rate Approved in

ANSI T1.413-1998 Issue 2 ADSL 8.0 Mbit/s 1.0 Mbit/s 1998

ITU G.992.2 ADSL Lite (G.lite) 1.5 Mbit/s 0.5 Mbit/s 1999-07

ADSL ITU G.992.1 ADSL (G.dmt) 8.0 Mbit/s 1.3 Mbit/s 1999-07

ITU G.992.1 Annex A ADSL over POTS 12.0 Mbit/s 1.3 Mbit/s 2001

ITU G.992.1 Annex B ADSL over ISDN 12.0 Mbit/s 1.8 Mbit/s 2005

ITU G.992.3 Annex L RE-ADSL2 5.0 Mbit/s 0.8 Mbit/s 2002-07

ITU G.992.3 ADSL2 12.0 Mbit/s 1.3 Mbit/s 2002-07


ADSL2
ITU G.992.3 Annex J ADSL2 12.0 Mbit/s 3.5 Mbit/s 2002-07

ITU G.992.4 Splitterless ADSL2 1.5 Mbit/s 0.5 Mbit/s 2002-07

ITU G.992.5 ADSL2+ 24.0 Mbit/s 1.4 Mbit/s 2003-05


ADSL2+
ITU G.992.5 Annex M ADSL2+M 24.0 Mbit/s 3.3 Mbit/s 2008

Download speed (ADSL 2+)


The theoretical maximum download speed reachable by
ADSL 2+ is dependent on the distance from the user
modem to the DSLAM.

Distance Download Speed Download Speed Download Time Example

(from DSLAM) (Megabits per second) (Megabytes per second) (9.3MB MP3 file)

0.3 km (approx 0.19 miles) 24.0 Mbit/s 3.0 MB/sec ~3.0 seconds

0.6 km (approx 0.37 miles) 24.0 Mbit/s 3.0 MB/sec ~3.0 seconds

0.9 km (approx 0.56 miles) 23.0 Mbit/s 2.88 MB/sec ~3.2 seconds

1.2 km (approx 0.75 miles) 22.0 Mbit/s 2.75 MB/sec ~3.4 seconds

1.5 km (approx 0.93 miles) 21.0 Mbit/s 2.63 MB/sec ~3.5 seconds

1.8 km (approx 1.12 miles) 19.0 Mbit/s 2.38 MB/sec ~3.9 seconds

2.1 km (approx 1.3 miles) 16.0 Mbit/s 2.0 MB/sec 4.7 seconds

3.0 km (approx 1.86 miles) 8.0 Mbit/s 1.0 MB/sec 9.3 seconds

4.5 km (approx 2.80 miles) 3.0 Mbit/s 0.38 MB/sec (384 KB/sec) ~24.5 seconds

5.2 km (approx 3.23 miles) 1.5 Mbit/s 0.19 MB/sec (192 KB/sec) ~49 seconds

Notes

Megabits per second is generally the measurement


most ISPs use when advertising the speed of the line.
Megabytes per second give a clearer idea of the speed
in relation to files, as most typical files downloaded
(such as documents, photos and music files) are
usually displayed in terms of their MB size, not Megabit
size. Note that for this column "1 Megabyte" is taken as
"1,024 KB", and not "1,000 KB".
Download Time Examples demonstrates how long it
would take for an individual 9.3MB sized MP3 file (4
minutes long, encoded at 320kbit/s) to download.
These times assume a line operates at the speeds
shown at all times. In real-life, speeds often vary
throughout the day, and in cases where a broadband
line is shared between multiple different devices (e.g. a
wireless router with multiple devices linked to it). The
"~" symbol means "approximately".

See also
Wikimedia Commons has media related to ADSL.

ADSL loop extender can be used to expand the reach


and rate of ADSL services.
Attenuation distortion
Broadband Internet access
Digital subscriber line access multiplexer
Flat rate
List of device bandwidths
Low-pass filter and ADSL splitter.
Rate-Adaptive Digital Subscriber Line (RADSL)
Single-pair high-speed digital subscriber line (SHDSL)
Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL)

References
1. ANSI T1.413-1998 "Network and Customer Installation
Interfaces – Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL)
Metallic Interface." (American National Standards Institute
1998)
2. Data and Computer Communications, William Stallings,
ISBN 0-13-243310-9, ISBN 978-0-13-243310-5
3. Troiani, Fabio (1999). "Thesis in Electronics Engineering
(DU) on ADSL system with DMT modulation in respect of
the Standard ANSI T1.413" . DSL Knowledge Center.
Retrieved 2014-03-06.
4. "How to optimise your gaming performance" .
5. "Recommendation ITU-T G.992.3 - Asymmetric digital
subscriber line transceivers 2 (ADSL2)" . SERIES G:
TRANSMISSION SYSTEMS AND MEDIA, DIGITAL SYSTEMS
AND NETWORKS Digital sections and digital line system –
Access networks. Telecommunication standardization
sector of ITU. April 2009. Retrieved 11 April 2012.

External links
The UNH-IOL DSL Knowledge Base (advanced tutorials)
[1]

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