The Meaning of DSL: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of DSL? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the abbreviation DSL, including its definition, usage, and more!

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What does the abbreviation DSL stand for?

According to Century Link and AT&T, the acronym DSL stands for digital subscriber line, a type of internet access. DSL connects a home to the internet through a dedicated pair of copper wires that carry data using traditional copper telephone lines. These exist within the telephone lines and the use of a modem. DSL does not interfere with home telephone service or fax machines since it transmits at a different frequency; DSL uses higher frequency bands. This allows a person to be on the standard phone lines and internet at the same time. DSL is the most common broadband internet connection found in homes today. DSL is considered the “big brother” to dial-up internet services. It can be provided through existing telephone networks. DSL uses a DSL modem, a DSL outlet, a DSL filter or filters which  block high-frequency interference, a router, and splitters to receive digital signals and give faster digital data speeds. Internet speed is measured in bit rates (mbit, kbit, gbit) and such speeds are represented as MHz. DSL was invented by the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) with their specification proposed in 1984. Bell Labs has also researched telephone communications and the bit rate of consumer DSL services on digital lines.

The pros of DSL are that it is widely available because it is built on existing phone lines. Also, it costs less than satellite or broadband internet connections such as symmetrical broadband access services. Finally, each subscriber has a dedicated circuit like phone service. Having many users on line at once does not put a heavier demand or load on the DSL lines, unlike with cable internet which has limited availability. The cons are that DSL is one of the slower types of internet service and that it is distance sensitive. If the customer premises are far from the central office as opposed to local subscribers, your signal decreases and your speed slows down. The data rate speed is based on the line conditions and broadband connections at service-level implementation.

There are multiple types of DSL, including Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL), Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), ADSL2+, Very-high-speed Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL and VDSL2) and G.Fast. With symmetrical DSL technology, upload and download speeds have equal bandwidth. Asymmetrical DSL is the most popular type of DSL connection. ADSL provides faster download speeds than upload. ADSL2+ is a newer version of ADSL. It connects at higher frequencies, which increases both download and upload speeds. The data throughput in the upstream direction (the direction to the service provider) is lower. VDSL is also known as very-high-bit-rate DSL (HDSL), and has even higher frequencies than ADSL2. VDSL2 uses the highest frequencies of any of the DSL connections. connects new fiber lines to existing copper lines or fiber optic cables, and is considered an enhancement for DSL service. It is only available in limited locations. Pari bonding is also an option that provides double the bandwidth as compared to single line DSL. Two copper wire pairs as opposed to one are used, which doubles the internet speed. 

According to The Free Dictionary, the abbreviation DSL can be used as much more than just a shorthand for digital subscriber line or digital subscriber loop. This acronym has a plethora of other potential definitions. However, these definitions are less common and should therefore be used sparingly. If you do decide to use one of these alternate definitions, make sure that you provide the reader or listener with the pepper context so that they can infer the correct meaning. 

  •  Division of Student Life (various schools)
  •  Demonstrated Senior Logistician
  •  Distributed Service Logic
  •  Disability Sick Leave
  •  Data Set Language
  •  Dupré Sports Loisirs (French sports leisure organization)
  •  Digital Subscriber Line
  •  Distribution Services Limited (Demerara Distillers Limited)
  •  Développements Services Logistiques (France: Developments Logistics Services)
  •  Decision Support Language
  •  Désolé (French: sorry)
  •  Design Science License
  •  Dictionary Specification Language (ABBYY Software House)
  •  Division of State Lands (US Army Corps of Engineers)
  •  Denver & Salt Lake (Railroad)
  •  Distributed Simulation Laboratory
  •  Dynamic Super Linear Bass
  •  Doctor of Strategic Leadership
  •  District de Services Locaux (French: Local Service District; Canada)
  •  Dialog Specification Language
  •  Defence Science Laboratory (India)
  •  Distal Sesamoidean Ligament (horses)
  •  Department of Student Life (various schools)
  •  Digital Signal Level
  •  Digital Signature Layer (email encryption)
  •  Domain Specific Language
  •  Dictionary of the Scots Language
  •  Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories (Israel)
  •  Designated Substance List (Canada)
  •  Digital Service Line
  •  Digital System Laboratory (Thailand)
  •  Data Simulation Language
  •  Direct Subscriber Line
  •  Depot Supply Level
  •  Dictionary Specification Language
  •  Drawing and Specification Listing
  •  Diesel
  •  Développement Social Local (French: Local Social Development)
  •  Deep Scattering Layer
  •  Deaf Sign Language
  •  Dialogue Scripting Language
  •  Dumb Stupid Loser
  •  Definitive Software Library
  •  Damn Small Linux
  •  Deutsche Siedlungs- und Landesrentenbank
  •  Display Switch Locator (SL) Routing (US DoD)
  •  Down Stage Left
  •  Document Summary List
  •  Digital Subscriber Loop
  •  Digital-system Specification Language
  •  Drumsynth Live (fruityloops studio generator plugin)
  •  Domestic Substance List
  •  Dog Leg Severity (oil industry, drilling)
  •  Down Shop Lead (EOT crane power source)
  •  Downey Savings & Loan (California)
  •  Dynamic Simulation Language
  •  Delta Service Location (France)
  •  Data Set Label
  •  Direct Strike Lightning
  •  Data Structure Language
  •  Dental System Light
  •  Deep Submergence Laboratory (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
  •  Don’t Stay Long
  •  Direct Satellite Link
  •  Digital Spectralog
  •  Deposito Sin Libreta (Spanish: No Deposit Book)

Overall, the term DSL means digital subscriber line. This is a family of technologies that provide faster internet speeds. It allows for simultaneous use of the voice via phone and internet. Talk to your internet service providers or telephone companies about upgrading to DSL today!


  1. DSL – What does DSL stand for? | The Free Dictionary 
  2. What is DSL? | Century Link 
  3. What is DSL Internet and How Does it Work? | Resources | AT&T