How is DSL be realised by Service Providers? (DSL Resale, DSL Wholesale and Bitstream)?

Some ADSL providers simply ‘resell’ DSL services actually provided by other operators (typically incumbent operators). In this case, the ADSL customer usually receives two invoices: one from the ADSL provider for the ADSL connection and the data volume carried (or a data ‘flatrate’) and one invoice from the incumbent operator for telephone line service. This is sometimes called ‘DSL Resale’ and sometimes ‘DSL Wholesale’.


There are two main types of DSL Resale/DSL Wholesale: regulated DSL Resale and voluntary DSL Resale/DSL Wholesale.


In cases where the incumbent operator offers the regulated form of DSL Resale (e.g. in Germany), this is usually because the national operator has forced him to do so. In this case the terms of the technical realisation and the prices chargeable by the incumbent operator to the DSL reseller are all closely controlled by the telecommunications regulator.


In some countries (e.g. UK), the incumbent operator introduced a DSL Wholesale (or DSL Resale) service on a ‘voluntary’ basis either entirely on its own commercial initiative or else before the decree of the national regulator. In these cases, the terms of the resale (technical conditions and prices) are set directly between the incumbent operator and the reseller (i.e. there is more flexibility).


The ‘bitstream’ service is a variation on ‘DSL Resale’ or ‘DSL Wholesale’ service. ‘Bitstream’ service is under discussion in European telecommunications regulatory circles as a means of improving competition in DSL line provision services. It gives the competitive ADSL service provider the economic benefits of DSL Resale (economic ADSL service offering without major investment in a nationwide DSL network infrastructure), but with slightly more technical scope than DSL Resale offers. In effect, ‘bitstream’ is ‘halfway between line sharing and unbundling solution for ADSL’.



How does the realisation of my ADSL line (line sharing, unbundling, DSL Resale) affect me?

The basic technical realisation of an ADSL connection is the same, independent of the commercial arrangement  for provision of the telephone/ADSL cable and related equipment (provided either by: own-cable infrastructure, line sharing, unbundling or DSL Resale) on which the service is based. See figure...


However, the ownership, control and commercial conditions for the use and service support of the various equipment components making up the connection may have a significant impact on the service a customer receives.


The more equipment components and service personnel are under the direct control of your ADSL service provider, so the greater degree of control your ADSL service provider has over the level of service and responsiveness you receive. The more equipment components are owned by your ADSL provider, so the greater control your provider has over the technical capabilities of the service and the early introduction of new features (e.g. ADSL 2+). A long term commitment to DSL Resale, for example, might prevent an ADSL service provider and all his customers from using the recently introduced, and higher speed ADSL 2+ service.


Conversely, by using an ‘unbundled’ line or his own cable infrastructure, a service provider can gain nearly total control of the ADSL capabilities and service level of his ADSL offering.


         Greatest degree of control:        ADSL provider uses own cable infrasructure

                                                                       ADSL provider uses unbundled lines

                                                                       ADSL provider uses bitstream service

                                                                       ADSL provider uses line sharing

                                                                       ADSL provider uses DSL resale (regulated)

            Least degree of control:                ADSL provider uses unregulated DSL wholesale



Which operators use their own cable infrastructure, line sharing, unbundling and/or DSL Resale?

It is not always easy to determine which cable connection method (own infrastructure, unbundling, DSL resale etc.) an ADSL service provider is using to provide his service, although the following generalisations are true in most European countries:


4    Ex-monopolist incumbent telecom operators: The ex-monopoly players (incumbents: e.g. British Telecom in UK, France Télécom in France, Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Telefónica in Spain etc.) use their own cable infrastructure to provide DSL/ADSL service under their own Internet brandnames (BT Internet, wanadoo, T-Online, Telefónica Net)


4    ADSL Resellers / ISPs: Most of the new players offering ADSL are ISPs (Internet Service Providers: e.g. AOL, Pipex, Tiscali, United Internet (1&1, GMX) etc.) who are offering ADSL service based on a DSL Resale arrangement – usually provided by the incumbent operator. DSL Resale is a relatively easy way for a new market entrant to offer ADSL service economically, while still being able to offer nationwide service coverage. When a new service provider appears and is instantly able to offer nationwide coverage then more than likely: this service is based on DSL Resale of another operator’s (wholesaler’s) service. In the longer term, the capabilities and price of the offering will depend upon the wholesaler as much as upon the ADSL reseller.


4    Network Infrastructure Builders: A small number of players are concentrating on trying to build their own large scale network infrastructure – combined with ‘unbundled’ and ‘line sharing’ lines of the incumbent. (e.g. Neufcom/Cegetel in France; Arcor, QSC and Telefónica in Germany). The investment required for such an undertaking is enormous – reflecting the financial substance behind these service providers. But as a means of achieving earliest possible return on their large invesments, these players also typically offer ‘Wholesale DSL’ services to other ADSL service providers – as an alternative to the incumbent’s DSL Resale service.  Service providers in this category can be distinguished by their limited geographical service coverage (target main cities only, but with an ever expanding list of cities) and by promotional offers which nearly always combine an ISDN telephone line together with ADSL service.