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DSL could soon become a challenger to cable and satellite in the delivery of residential TV services with advances in networking technology now falling into place.

This is the view of Nigel Moulton, Cisco's group manager of access aggregation, who says that improvements in video compression technology, IP multicasting and router hardware design will shake up the broadband market.

Broadband outfits such as HomeChoice already provide video on demand but this is "not the killer app", according to Moulton. That comes with multi-channel TV over a DSL connection, that comes with the ability to compress a channel to occupy only occupy between 1.5-1.8Mbps of bandwidth.

Stream two such "DVD quality" channels together down a high-speed DSL connection (which would require a 4Mbps pipe), and embedded technology in a set top box so subscribers can switch between channels and you have something useful.

This may seem ambitious but it "isn't rocket science technology", even though its effects are far reaching, according to Moulton.

Rules which prevented BT from running broadcasting services were relaxed this year, paving the way for the monster telco to offer residential TV services over DSL networks.

The wider market for such services relies on a competitive carrier market, and Cisco joined the list of Oftel's critics when Moulton said the regulator has failed to create an open market for DSL services in the UK.

Longer term, Cisco sees a battle in the broadband market looming between VDSL technology (which offers 5-23Mbps of bandwidth) and switched 10Mbps Ethernet.

Ethernet is cheaper and offers service providers the opportunity to use higher density and more mature technology than is available with VDSL. Although quality of service improvements are making Ethernet more attractive, VDSL has the advantage of using ATM protocol extensions telco engineers will be more comfortable and familiar with.

Both technologies are dogged by concerns that they could interfere with the telephone spectrum, for now at least, but Cisco is confident that the approval of European regulators will come when chipset noise issues are resolved. ®

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