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ADSL technology over ATM

University of New York, Tirana

M.Sc. in Computer Science

Advanced Networking


Department of Computer Science
School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences
University of Greenwich

University of New York in Tirana

Jetmir Sadiku

ADSL technology over ATM

1. Introduction………………………………………………….3
2. Digital Subscriber Lines………………………………….…..4
3. Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line………………………..6
4. Network Components of an ADSL System……………......7
5. Signal Division ……………………………………………...9
6. Protocol stack……………………………………………....11
7. ADSL Frame and Superframe……………………………..11
8. Types of xDSL……………………………………………..13
8.1. ADSL ……………………………………………...13
8.2. CDSL……………………………………………....13
8.3. G.Lite or DSL Lite………………………………....13
8.4. HDSL……………………………………………....14
8.5. RADSL………………………………………….....14
8.6. SDSL……………………………………………….14
8.7. VDSL……………………………………………....14
8.8. x2/DSL…………………………………………......14
9. Asynchronous Transfer Mode………………………………....15
10. ATM Communication channels…………………………...…15
11. Service Categories of an ATM Network……………...……...16
12. Connection Types Used over ATM……………………..…...18
13. References…………………………………………………..…20

ADSL technology over ATM

1. Introduction

ADSL stands for Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line and is being an optimal
solution in the field of the Internet because it offers high speed communication. It is
based on the asymmetric transmission where the downstream reaches 8Mbps and the
upstream reaches 640Kbps. This technology is used by ISP to offer Internet service to
customers by using the existing cooper line.

Both data and voice can be transmitted simultaneously over this channel for a distance
that goes near to 5 km. Because of those positive things, ADSL technology is said to be
the optimal choice in offering Internet services for home customers and business
customers or even Government.

The speed of ADSL and its economical use because the infrastructure of the
communication is ready, ADSL makes possible the service to be on low price for
customers and for providers also.

This technical study presents an overview for ADSL and expresses in detail how ADSL
works and for sure theoretical part of implementation of ADSL over an ATM channel.

ADSL technology over ATM

2. Digital Subscriber Lines

When the telephone industry achieved 56 kbps in data transmitting, it thought that the
job was done well. But at this time the industry of cable TV offered signal transmission
speed up to 10 Mbps on shared transmission cables that offers television service and
internet at the same line and satellite companies were planning to increase the
transmission speed up to 50Mbps.

The need to access Internet was growing exponentially and telephony companies
realize that they need a more competitive product. After a lot of studies and efforts they
start offering digital services that was served over the existing connecting structure,
local loop.

From the beginning, a lot of offering and all on the same name xDSL start to employee
this transmission technology.

Earlier transmission technologies like modem were slow because of one argument:
telephones are invented to carry the human voice and all the attempts to optimize the
system are done according to his purpose. “At the point where each local loop
terminates in the end office, the wire runs through a filter that attenuates all frequencies
below 300 Hz and above 3400 Hz. The cutoff is not sharp—300 Hz and 3400 Hz are
the 3 dB points—so the bandwidth is usually quoted as 4000 Hz even though the
distance between the 3 dB points is 3100 Hz.” (A.S.Tanenbaum, 2003)

The modification that xDSL use to have the whole bandwidth for transmitting data is
that in the moment that a customer subscribes to the system, line does not pass on the
filter but runs on a special kind of switch which does not have the filter and all the
capacity of the local loop is used.

ADSL technology over ATM

The capacity of local loop is affected by a number of factors including thickness of the
cooper line, its length and general quality.

The graphic below expresses the potential bandwidth as a function of distance. This
function supposes that all the other factors are optimal.

Fig.1: Bandwidth versus distance for DSL

Implementation of this function in reality creates some problems for the company that
offers the service. When a customer in some distance from the end office is trying to
sign up for service, it is told to him that: ''Thanks a lot for your interest, but you live
100 meters too far from the nearest end office to get the service. Could you please
move? ''

So as we see from the figure, the lower is the speed, the larger is the radius and the
greater is the number of customers that take service. On the other hand the lower speed
the less attractive is the service and the fewer customer will pay for this service.

A lot of circumstances make us to think that xDSL services have been designed with
certain goals in mind. First, all the services that DSL technology offers must work over

ADSL technology over ATM

the existing category 3 twisted pair local loops. Second, they must not affect customers'
existing telephones which mean that services of DSL have to be separated from the
existing voice services offered by telephone companies. Third, they are created to be
much faster than 56 kbps. Fourth, they should be always on, paying is based on the
monthly charge, not per-minute charge. (A.S.Tanenbaum, 2003)

3. Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line

ADSL is one among different types of xDSL technologies that uses the existing
telephony lines to transmit high-bandwidth data like video and multimedia to
subscribers. As I mentioned before, xDSL transmission technology deliver high-
bandwidth data in spread areas only with some small changes to the existing
communication infrastructure.
This technology supports different types of communicating link like dedicated or point-
to-point transmission over a category 3 of twisted pair cooper wires. Now let explain in
details why we call this transmission technology as ADSL.

ADSL is:

Asymmetric, the bandwidth reserved for downstream is greater than the

bandwidth reserved for upstream
Digital, data represented by video and voice, first are digitized and then
are transmitted on the channel
Subscriber Line, data travels over an existing twisted pair copper wire to
the subscribers (customers) premises.

Based on the OSI reference model, ADSL is placed on the second layer which is
Physical Layer, which is responsible for handling the basic ADSL layer two services.

ADSL technology over ATM

4. Network Components of an ADSL System

The main hardware components required for the ADSL network are shown below:

Fig 2: Main network components for ADSL

ATU-R (ADSL Transmission Unit Remote) or ADSL Modem

This device may vary from a simple device only with base functions only
for converting the signal to the more complicated ones that do three
functions on the same time, take the role of ADSL modem, have LAN
interfaces and also have Wireless interfaces. It is located on the customer
premises and terminates the local loop.
ATU-C (ADSL Transmission Unit Central Office)
Just like the ATU-R terminates the local loop on the customer side, there is
a need to terminate the local loop even in the central office premises. This is
done by a modem which is placed in Central Office (ATU-C).
DSLAM (DSL Access Multiplexor)
It is better to group ATU-Cs on large units called DSLAM. This makes the
maintainability more simple and efficient. We also can incorporate a splitter
which splits the signal. We use ATM or Ethernet to allow a DSLAM to have
access to the Internet.

ADSL technology over ATM

The splitter is an electronic low pass filter which is used to separate the
analogue voice or ISDN signal from ADSL data frequencies. There are two
splitters; one is located at the central office and one other at the customer

To simplify the explanation of this network it is better to see it from two different
points of view:

a) From Loop to Subscriber Premise

Both, POTS and ADSL signal, flies from the loop to the Network Interface Device
(NID) at the customer side. A splitter in the customer side is used to split the signal
into two parts: one part to the PSTN that is dedicated to the voice channel and one
part to the Internet.

The splitter, a passive, low-pass filter is the magic device that makes possible two
positive thing; first it ensures an uninterrupted voice service for telephone even if
ADSL fails and second it also protects the ADSL signal from POTS transients
from handsets going on-hook and off-hook.

The first output sends a POTS signal to the standard telephone set and the second
output sends the combined ADSL signal to the ATU-R. This data-only signal is
then converted to a standard Ethernet or other standards of communication output
for connection to a computer NIC.

b) From the Subscriber Premise to the Central Office

Both, POTS and ADSL signal flies upstream from the subscriber side to the main
distribution frame at the central office. The splitter divide the POTS signal to the
voice switch to be handled via the PSTN (Public Switch Telephone System) and
the ADSL signal continues to the ATU-C, which is located in the DSLAM.

ADSL technology over ATM

In the DSLAM, signals are multiplexed onto an ATM fiber network. This ATM
fiber network connects to ISP, which provide data connections to the Internet and
other services.

5. Signal Division

Copper line can transmit signal on frequencies nearly 1 Mhz. xDSL transmission
technology is based on the fact that the voice signal is below 4 kHz. So the other
bandwidth (from 4 kHz to nearly 1Mhz) is used form xDSL transmission. This
separation is done by splitter on the subscriber premises. This makes possible that
POTS and ADSL signals to be used at the same time without affecting each other.

POTS uses a frequency band of 4-kHz for transmitting the voice signals, so even with
the most sophisticated modulation techniques, current modem technology can only
achieve throughput of up to 56 kbps for downstream and 32 K for upstream. In order to
obtain higher ranges of throughput, ADSL utilize the bandwidth from nearly 20 kHz to
1.2 MHz that in fact is not used by POTS and is available on the copper lines.

To achieve this, Frequency Division Multiplexing (FDM) is used. FDM makes possible
to divide the whole frequency in three bands:

a) 0-4 kHz for POTS

b) 25 kHz-1.1 MHz for xDSL. This band is again divided:
1. For data Upstream (25 kHz-138 kHz)
2. For data Downstream(139 kHz-1.1 MHz)

As we see, the range of frequencies used for upstream is not the same as the one used
for downstream. This is why we call it ADSL.

ADSL technology over ATM

Fig 3: ADSL signaling

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) American and the National

Standards Institute (ANSI) chose Discrete MultiTone (DMT) modulation as the
standard for ADSL. DMT takes the whole channel from 25Khz to 1.1Mhz and divides
it on 256 sub-channels. Based on this technique, downstream data transfer frequencies
range from 139 kHz to 1.1 MHz and is the biggest range of frequencies and upstream
data transfer frequencies range from 25 kHz to 138 kHz.

These bands are guarded by Guard Bands that are used for the purpose to ensure that
'POTS and xDSL signal to interfere with each other. Each sub channel has a bandwidth
of 4KHz and a gap of 0.3KHz. Tones on high frequency are noisier and rare so these
ones carry fewer bits than tones on lower frequencies.

The communication between DSL modem on the subscriber premises and the DSLAM
placed on the central office, an embedded operations channel (EOC) provided as a part
of the ADSL protocol. This device is used to provide in-service and out-of-service
maintenance and monitor ADSL performance.

ADSL technology over ATM

In future we can use EOC to extend maintenance and performance monitoring. To

evaluate the QoS for ADSL we have to examine the capacity of line and the noise of
the channel. The lower the capacity and higher the noise margin, the better is the signal.

6. Protocol stack

To govern and maintain every aspect of the communication, protocols are used in data
communications between the ISP, CO and CPE. Protocols are grouped in stacks made
of layers where each layer is used to represent a small portion of the communications
process. The lower layers deals with the reliable transfer of data from source to
destination and of course are most critical for ADSL authorization. Lower layers are:

1. Physical layer is responsible for establishing the physical circuit between two
2. Data link layer provides for transport of data over the physical layer.
3. Network layer is responsible for routing data through an overall network.

7. ADSL Frame and Superframe

An ADSL frame carries the exact number of bits that can be sent in a single time-slice.
Those bits are send using all active frequencies granted by DMT modulation in the
accordance with the number of bits per signal that is used by each and every frequency.

After sending a number of 68 such frames, there is always a need for a special frame to
be sent in order to ensure the synchronization. The combination of 68 normal frames
and one synchronization frame is named as an ADSL super frame.
All the data transmitted in the ADSL technology is organized into these two items:

ADSL technology over ATM

Frames - each frame starts on a 250 µs time boundary. The size and the
content of the frame can vary based on the transport mode used but the
timing of the frame is always kept as constant.

Superframes - represent the highest level of data presentation. This kind of

special frame is repeated every 17ms. Because of this, a superframe can
contain a number of normal frames that vary from six to eight where one of
them is used to perform superframe synchronization. Even though, some of
the remaining frames can be used for special functions also.

Both the frames and super frames posses the needed structure to provide frame
synchronization. Each of them contains the fields showed below:

Fast Byte is used for the processing functions that are related to special
super frame.
Fast Data transmits information that is sensitive by the time that it is
delayed on the channel such as audio. This field can vary in length.
Forward Error Correction (FEC) is used to make sure that data is
transmitted as fast as possible.
Interleaved Data is the subscriber data that ADSL technology transmits,
typically Internet data. This field can vary in length.

Fig 4: ADSL Frame

ADSL technology over ATM

8. Types of xDSL

8.1 ADSL
ADSL is one form of xDSL transmission technology. Called asymmetric, because the
most of the bandwidth is reserved for downstream of the data and a small range of
frequencies is reserved for upstream. It is done so, because customers only transmit the
request for service which means that they do not send great amount of data to the
server, they just ask for service. In comparison to that, the information that goes
downstream is in huge amount. In addition, some downstream bandwidth is reserved
for voice communication and the most of this bandwidth is reserved for data.

If we have a line with nearly 6 Mbps downstream speed and 640 Kbps upstream speed,
we are able to play TV videos and audios. Unlike a similar service over TV cable line,
using ADSL, you are not comparing for bandwidth with neighbors in your area.

8.2 .CDSL
Consumer DSL for short CDSL, is a trademarked version of DSL technology and is
slower than ADSL (nearly 1 Mbps for downstream and less upstream). CDSL offers an
advantage because we do not have to install a splitter on the customer premises. CDSL
do not use DMT or CAP technologies but it has its own carrier technology.

8.3 G.Lite or DSL Lite

G.Lite or DSL Lite is a splitter less ADSL. It is a slower ADSL which does not split the
signal on the customer premises but do it on the telephony company. Because of this,
the company saves “the truck roll” cost. ITU-T standard G-992.2, offers a data
transmission rate from 1.544 Mbps to 6Mpbs downstream and from 128 Kbps to 384
Kbps upstream.

ADSL technology over ATM

8.4 HDSL
HDSL that stands for High bit-rate DSL, is the earliest version of DSL which is used
for wideband digital transmission between a customer and the telephone company.
HDSL is symmetrical: downstream and upstream cut the bandwidth in the middle and
half of it is used for downstream and the other half is used for upstream. This is the
reason why maximum data rate is lower than for ADSL because a lot of bandwidth that
is reserved for upstream really is not used by customers.

RADSL stands for Rate-Adaptive DSL and it is one among other ADSL technologies
offered by Westell. RADSL uses software to determine the rate at which signals can be
transmitted on a given customer phone line and adjust the delivery rate accordingly.

8.6 SDSL
SDSL stands for Symmetric DSL and is similar to HDSL with a single twisted-pair
line, carrying 1.544 Mbps for U.S. and Canada or 2.048 Mbps for Europe.

8.7 UDSL
Unidirectional DSL is a proposal from a European company. It's a unidirectional
version of HDSL.

8.8 VDSL
VDSL that stands for Very high data rate DSL, is a technology that offers higher data
rates for relatively short distances (varying from 51 to 55 Mbps for lines up to 300
meters in length). The transmission technologies like DMT or CAP are not determined
for this type of ADSL and a lot of organizations are making researches on that area.

8.8 x2/DSL
x2/DSL is a modem from 3Com that supports 56 Kbps modem communication but is
upgradeable through new software installation to ADSL.

ADSL technology over ATM

9. Asynchronous Transfer Mode

ATM, the short of Asynchronous Transfer Mode, is a Data Link Layer protocol of the
high speed of communication. This protocol is used to provide access to the physical
layer like ADSL in order to handle the communication from higher level protocols like

ATM, one of the most important technologies, is considered as key importance for
enabling broadband on ADSL, and it is well optimized for real time voice and video
applications. ATM cells are of the same size, where a cell is compound by 53 bytes.
First 5 bytes creates the header of the cell and the remaining 48 bytes create the
payload. Below I represent the ATM cell:

Fig 5: ATM Cell

10. ATM Communication channels

A usual ATM network is organized as a mesh of ATM switches that distribute cells in
different directions. The correct switch of cells on their directions is done by virtual
circuits that are defined through the network. These virtual circuits create the imaginary
line that connects two given devices and create a path. All the switches that are part of
this path have the needed information about this channel. Assume that a device A wants
to send any information to a device B. The cell itself includes the information which
virtual channel to use in order to achieve the destination. The switches recognize the
VC number and send the cell to the specified destination.

ADSL technology over ATM

In the situation when a number of different virtual channels go to the same direction,
they are logically grouped together into a virtual path.

Virtual Path Identifier (VPI)

It is a unique identifier for every virtual path. In every ATM network the
number of Virtual Paths is always smaller than the number of Virtual
Channels. Core switches use the information of VPI in order to forward cells
by looking on the router relatively short tables.

Virtual Channel Identifier (VCI)

When cells approach to the destination, they are forwarded towards the
destination based on the VCI information in order to get to their unique
destination. This delivery is done by switches.

11. Service Categories of an ATM Network

In order to support QoS that is very important during the transmission, ATM VC has a
set of defined service categories that uses to achieve the QoS. ATM switches can
queue, drop or even prioritize cells belonging to a particular channel based on the
categories expressed below:

Constant Bit Rate (CBR).

This category of service needs to be sure that throughput and levels of
service are guaranteed. Cells from a CBR channel are transmitted over the
network with a constant bit rate that is specified before the transmission
starts. This is necessary to be achieved for applications that are sensitive just
like video or voice.

ADSL technology over ATM

Variable Bit Rate (VBR).

There are two types of service categories.
a) Variable Bit Rate non-real time (VBR-nrt) guaranties the service by a
variable bit rate, which means that depending on the quality or on the
usage of the line, bit rate transmission changes. This service is used by
applications that tolerate delay just like email.
b) Variable Bit Rate real time (VBR-rt) guaranties the service by a
variable bit rate, but which do not tolerate delays. Network undertakes
to minimize the latency of forwarding cells.
Unspecified Bit Rate (UBR).
This service category doesn’t specify traffic related service guarantees. It
doesn’t include a pre-connection negotiated bandwidth. This network
doesn’t do any commitments for cell loss ratio or the cell transfer delay.
Available Bit Rate (ABR)
The ABR category of service allows the setting of both minimum and peak
cell rates.

There are some other parameters that also have to be specified for service categories.
Those parameters are mentioned below:

Peak Cell Rate (PCR) is the maximum rate that is allowed to be transmitted
on the VC.

Minimal Cell Rate (MCR) is the minimal transfer rate that network can
provide for VC.

Sustainable Cell Rate (SCR) is the mean transfer rate that network provide
for the VC.

Maximum Burst Size (MBS) is a how many cells may be sent at the PCR
for the VC.

ADSL technology over ATM

RFC 1483 have created two definitions for ATM to use during the offering the service
for real implementations. These definitions have to do with the encapsulation of
different protocols on the ATM cells to make possible that the receiving part identifies
those protocols correctly.

Virtual Channel Multiplexing (VCMux): In this method, multiple VCs are

created on one ADSL link, and for each VC we can encapsulate a different
protocol. The receiver knows that all the packets arriving on a specific VC
belong to a specific protocol.
LLC/SNAP encapsulation: This encapsulation allows only one VC to be
used. We can use additional headers to hold a field that expresses the
protocol type. RFC 1483 defines two different types of LLC/SNAP headers:
“RFC1483 Routed” and “RFC1483 Bridged” which I will describe on the
next section.

12. Connection Types Used over ATM

DSLAM support service for ATM network as well as for an Ethernet based ADSL
network. This flexibility on offering services is provided by a number of ways that
protocols can use to be combined and sent over ATM in order to support different
network architectures.

PPPoA This logical choice makes possible that customers have access to
internet over ATM-based network. The PPP layer is introduced for making
use of features of PPP like IP addressing assignments, link authentication,
link monitoring etc.

PPPoE This logical choice makes possible that customers have access to
internet over Ethernet-based network. The PPP layer is introduced for
making use of features of PPP like IP addressing assignments, link

ADSL technology over ATM

authentication, link monitoring etc. PPPoE packets use RFC1483 Bridged

method to be encapsulated.

IPoA We know that IP subnets map directly onto VLANs so it was thought
to try to map IP subnets directly on ATM networks. During this time the
IPoA was designed. So, an ATM address resolution protocol is created to
map IP onto ATM addresses.

RFC 1483 Bridged Here, the Ethernet packet that arrives on the Ethernet
side of the ADSL modem is encapsulated into AAL5, using the 'bridged-
data' format and is sent on the ADSL line. The modem forwards packets
based on their MAC addresses so it bridges the packets.

RFC 1483 Routed Here, the Ethernet packet that arrives on the Ethernet
side of the ADSL modem is encapsulated into AAL5, using the 'bridged-
data' format defined is and sent on the ADSL line.

ADSL technology over ATM


1. A.S.Tanenbaum. (March 17, 2003). The Physical Layer. In: Computer

Networks. 4th ed.: Prentice Hall. 384.

2. Unknown. ADSL over ATM. Available: Last
accessed 18.07.2010.

3. Nilesh Joshi. Technology Paper on Digital Subscriber Line. Available: Last accessed