US Robotics (USR) yesterday became the first modem vendor to formally announce a 56Kbps analogue device, saying products will be available in January 1997. The move was greeted by several Internet service providers (ISPs) who said they would support the technology to offer connections at speeds close to ISDN.
The firm's x2 product will be able to download data at up to 56Kbps over standard telephone lines and send data at up to 33.6Kbps. However, the product is a proprietary technology, suggesting that there could be some fragmentation in the move to the next generation of high-speed modems. US Robotics says it submitted the x2 specification to the ITU-T as a proposed standard. Rockwell has submitted a separate proposal. In the meantime, users of USR x2 modems will need to ensure that their ISP has a USR Total Control rack system that has been upgraded to the faster speed.
Users of current USR Sportster modems and Total Control systems will be upgradable to x2 for a charge from January 1997. Pricing will be set in the next two weeks but buyers of the Sportster 33.6 who purchased after September 15 will get the upgrade free. AOL, CompuServe, IBM Global Network, Netcom, UUNET Pipex and Cable Online are among ISPs who have agreed to support the technology.
"x2 provides speeds that are almost ISDN but at a much lower cost," said Steve Bradshaw, director of product marketing at USR Europe. "This will make the Internet much faster and get more subscribers online."
PCDN Comment: 56Kbps looks like becoming a must-have upgrade for anybody who uses the Internet on a frequent basis. The catch, as always with unapproved standards, is that there will be a period where compatibility between "different" 56Kbps modems and ISPs' rack systems is in question. With Boca Research, Hayes and others behind the Rockwell proposal about to show their hands, the answer isn't far off.