CSU/DSU (Channel Service Unit/Data Service Unit)

A CSU/DSU (Channel Service Unit/Data Service Unit) is a hardware device about the size of an external modem that converts a digital data frame from the communications technology used on a local area network (LAN) into a frame appropriate to a wide-area network (WAN) and vice versa. For example, if you have a Web business from your own home and have leased a digital line (perhaps a T-1 or fractional T-1 line) to a phone company or a gateway at an Internet service provider, you have a CSU/DSU at your end and the phone company or gateway host has a CSU/DSU at its end.

The Channel Service Unit (CSU) receives and transmits signals from and to the WAN line and provides a barrier for electrical interference from either side of the unit. The CSU can also echo loopback signals from the phone company for testing purposes. The Data Service Unit (DSU) manages line control, and converts input and output between RS-232C, RS-449, or V.xx frames from the LAN and the time-division multiplexed (TDM) DSX frames on the T-1 line. The DSU manages timing errors and signal regeneration. The DSU provides a modem-like interface between the computer as Data Terminal Equipment (DTE) and the CSU.

CSU/DSUs are made as separate products or are sometimes part of a T-1 WAN card. A CSU/DSU's Data Terminal Equipment interface is usually compatible with the V.xx and RS-232C or similar serial interface. Manufacturers of separate unit or integrated CSU/DSUs include Adtran, Cisco, and Memotec.

The CSU originated at AT&T as an interface to their nonswitched digital data system. The DSU provides an interface to the data terminal equipment (DTE) using a standard (EIA/CCITT) interface. It also provides testing capabilities.

This was last updated in October 2008

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