56-Kbps modem standard ratified

Modem vendors last week were quick to rally behind the latest announcement of a 56-Kbps standard, but before taking advantage of it, users may have to wait for Internet service providers to get new equipment.The 56-Kbps standard, dubbed V.

Modem vendors last week were quick to rally behind the latest announcement of a 56-Kbps standard, but before taking advantage of it, users may have to wait for Internet service providers to get new equipment.

The 56-Kbps standard, dubbed V.PCM in draft form and now called V.90, was unveiled at a recent meeting in Geneva of the International Telecommunication Union, earlier this month. According to industry insiders, the final standard is scheduled for ratification by September. The ITU said the standard provides speeds of up to 56 Kbps for downloading and up to 33.6 Kbps for uploading.

The V.90 specification is expected to put to rest the year long arguments over the competing and incompatible schemes for high-speed connections: the K56flex chip set created by the team of Rockwell Semiconductor Systems Inc. and Lucent Technologies, and the x2 technology offered by 3Com Corp.

Last week, a host of modem and remote-access vendors pledged their support for the new standard. Hayes Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Ascend Communications Inc. said they will form a working group to ensure interoperability among 56-Kbps modems. 3Com also said it will support the new standard.

Several vendors said they will offer customers V.90 by upgrading modems based on K56flex or x2 standard.

Diamond Multimedia Inc.'s Vancouver, Wash.-based communications division said it will soon post a software upgrade on its Web site. The company also said it will ship a V.90-based product in early March. Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Global Village Communication Inc., which sells modems based on the K56flex and x2 technologies, said it will offer free V.90 upgrades to customers after it has tested code from Rockwell and 3Com. Hayes said it will offer free upgrades to V.90 from its Web site.

While 56-Kbps technology may arrive on users' desktops soon, it may take longer to reach ISPs, analysts said.

"I think there's going to be quite a cycle for everyone to upgrade," said Brad Baldwin, director of remote access at International Data Corp. in Mountain View, Calif. "A lot of ISPs have purchased hardware platforms that can not be upgraded."

"Smaller ISPs are screwed, especially those stuck with old x2 modems," said Bill Woodcock, network architect at Zocalo of Berkeley, Calif., adding that providers won't gain any additional revenue by quickly supporting the standard. He said users should expect to wait 8 to 12 months before V.90 connections become commonplace.

Baldwin said he is also concerned about whether the standard would in fact interoperate properly. If it does, he said, "it should be full sailing ahead."

Modem vendors last week were quick to rally behind the latest announcement of a 56-Kbps standard, but before taking advantage of it, users may have to wait for Internet service providers to get new equipment.

The 56-Kbps standard, dubbed V.PCM in draft form and now called V.90, was unveiled at a recent meeting in Geneva of the International Telecommunication Union, earlier this month. According to industry insiders, the final standard is scheduled for ratification by September. The ITU said the standard provides speeds of up to 56 Kbps for downloading and up to 33.6 Kbps for uploading.

The V.90 specification is expected to put to rest the year long arguments over the competing and incompatible schemes for high-speed connections: the K56flex chip set created by the team of Rockwell Semiconductor Systems Inc. and Lucent Technologies, and the x2 technology offered by 3Com Corp.

Last week, a host of modem and remote-access vendors pledged their support for the new standard. Hayes Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Ascend Communications Inc. said they will form a working group to ensure interoperability among 56-Kbps modems. 3Com also said it will support the new standard.

Several vendors said they will offer customers V.90 by upgrading modems based on K56flex or x2 standard.

Diamond Multimedia Inc.'s Vancouver, Wash.-based communications division said it will soon post a software upgrade on its Web site. The company also said it will ship a V.90-based product in early March. Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Global Village Communication Inc., which sells modems based on the K56flex and x2 technologies, said it will offer free V.90 upgrades to customers after it has tested code from Rockwell and 3Com. Hayes said it will offer free upgrades to V.90 from its Web site.

While 56-Kbps technology may arrive on users' desktops soon, it may take longer to reach ISPs, analysts said.

"I think there's going to be quite a cycle for everyone to upgrade," said Brad Baldwin, director of remote access at International Data Corp. in Mountain View, Calif. "A lot of ISPs have purchased hardware platforms that can not be upgraded."

"Smaller ISPs are screwed, especially those stuck with old x2 modems," said Bill Woodcock, network architect at Zocalo of Berkeley, Calif., adding that providers won't gain any additional revenue by quickly supporting the standard. He said users should expect to wait 8 to 12 months before V.90 connections become commonplace.

Baldwin said he is also concerned about whether the standard would in fact interoperate properly. If it does, he said, "it should be full sailing ahead."