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Hayes shows cable modems

At the Western Show, the company demonstrates one-way and two-way devices based on the standard supervised by Multimedia Cable Network Systems.

    Hayes Microcomputer will join the cadre of manufacturers displaying cable modem wares at the Western Show.

    Hayes, like other vendors of dial-up modems for PCs, is finding it increasingly difficult to make a profit on the modems that it helped popularize. As a result, the company is branching out into newer communications products such as DSL (digital subscriber line) modems and cable modems.

    At the show, Hayes is demonstrating a cable modem based on MCNS, a standard supervised by Multimedia Cable Network Systems, an industry association. Currently, cable service providers are locked into using equipment from a single modem vendor; an official standard, such as MCNS, would theoretically allow modems to work with each other.

    MCNS-compliant modems are expected to supplant proprietary cable modems and could even be sold in retail stores just as analog dial-up modems are today.

    The Hayes prototype being unveiled at the show is a one-way cable modem. This type of modem receives data through a fiber or coaxial cable into the home, and sends information back out to the Internet through a phone line. Hayes says its modems will be able to download information at 30 megabits per second and send information out at 33.6 kilobits per second.

    While slower than two-way cable modems, Hayes and other vendors say one-way cable modems allow cable companies to roll out Internet service more quickly and cheaply than with two-way service.

    But Hayes will also show its two-way MCNS-compliant cable modem working with networking equipment from Cisco Systems (CSCO). Aside from offering faster data transfer speeds, two-way modems are expected to eventually be the more popular style of cable modem because a user?s phone line isn't tied up and an "always on" connection is maintained to the network.

    According to the company, its MCNS-compliant cable modems are expected to be in field trials by the second quarter of 1998.

    3Com (COMS) has already introduced its MCNS-compliant one-way cable modem and expects to start selling them by early next year in retail stores. Toshiba Multimedia Systems Division, another newcomer to the cable modem market, is demonstrating its two-way modem at the Western show.

    The cable modem market as it now stands is dominated by Motorola (MOT) and Bay Networks (BAY).