The first wave of 56Kbits/sec modems are due February but could get even faster within months of the first release.
US Robotics(USR) confirmed today it plans to ship its x2 modems in February, probably making it the first vendor out of the door with the hyped technology. However, rival Lucent Technologies could trump USR's specification by boosting upstream speed to 40Kbits/sec.
Lucent claims its Venus modem chip set - due to ship in modems between April and July - achieves the faster speed by drowning some of the echo from downstream data. USR's x2 technology and Rockwell's K56Flex only support the standard V.34 maximum of 33.6Kbits/sec for upstream transmissions.
However, the fragmented picture that has led many communications experts to predict no ITU standard will come about until 1998 could be resolved by Lucent melding its specification with that of Rockwell. For its part, USR said that because x2 is DSP-based, a faster upstream speed could easily be implemented. "We do believe a number of enhancements are possible," said Mike Valiant, product marketing manager for USR's network systems division. "All our technology is soft so we can upgrade our modems."
Faster upstream rates could mean 56Kbits/sec modems will attract high-bandwidth applications such as videoconferencing rather than their advantages being restricted to Web surfers.
In related news, USR said it expects 97 per cent of UK users to be able to get the full mean 56Kbits/sec downstream performance. In the US, only 53Kbit/sec is expected to be achievable because of telecommunications regulations.