56Kbps Modem Standard Now A Reality
February 06, 1998 07:30 AM PST

****Update - 56Kbps Modem Standard Now A Reality


GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, 1998 FEB 5 (NB) -- By Bob Woods, Newsbytes.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Thursday approved a preliminary standard for 56 kilobits per second (Kbps) modems, according to 3Com [NASDAQ:COMS]. 3Com developed the x2 56Kbps technology, which directly competed with and could not communicate with the K56flex technology developed by Lucent Technologies [NYSE:LU] and Rockwell International [NYSE:ROK].

The standard was approved at an ITU conference that wraps up Friday in Geneva, Switzerland, officials said. The new ITU standard will be assigned a new V-series number, after it was previously called "V.pcm" for "pulse code modulation."

ITU's next step for the new 56Kbps standard is to formally ratify it at another meeting this September. But the final vote is usually just a formality, Newsbytes notes.


Manufacturers of modems that have used the 3Com x2 and the Lucent/ Rockwell K56flex technologies have promised software upgrades to the new standard. That same pledge has been made to Internet service providers (ISPs) and others who have also used the older proprietary 56Kbps technologies, and will use the new standard. Previously, x2 modems could not "talk" with modems equipped with K56flex at 56Kbps- class speeds.

Last month, 3Com and Lucent Technologies said they would begin testing their respective 56Kbps modems to make sure they communicate with each another when using the new standard (Newsbytes, Jan. 20, 1998). New modem products based on the draft standard should be available from both companies within a few months, officials said last month.

Modem manufacturers are able to build standards-compliant modems before the standard has received formal ratification because the technical aspects of a determined standard are now frozen with Thursday's preliminary okay, 3Com officials said.


In addition, Lucent and 3Com will continue to support their respective proprietary technologies, meaning that the Internet service provider (ISP) base will not have to provide two separate protocols. For example, any x2 compatible provider will be able to communicate with a consumer who has either x2 or the new 56Kbps standard.


The 56Kbps arena has seen a lot of action since companies began shipping modems based on either x2 or K56flex, Newsbytes notes. But some consumers have been wary to buy modems based on the incompatible technologies. So the ITU began working in April 1997 to develop the pulse code modulation standard. The new standard uses the digital connections found at the ISP end to boost modem speeds coming from the ISP to the consumer to as high as 53Kbps -- the maximum speed currently allowed by law in the US. The "upstream" path, or the speed achieved from the consumer's PC to the ISP, can go as fast as 28.8Kbps.


The high-speed 56Kbps analog technology works best with applications that need fast downloading speeds like surfing the Internet, Newsbytes notes. Applications like videoconferencing, which needs a fast dual- directional path, are better suited for technologies like integrated services digital network (ISDN).


Reported By Newsbytes News Network: http://www.newsbytes.com .

(19980205/Press Contacts: Jan Rasmussen, 847-676-7901, or Sara Powers, 847-583-2643, both of 3Com /56KBPS/PHOTO)

1998 Newsbytes. All rights reserved.

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