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Hurry up, wait for 56-kbps notebook modems

Despite all the excitement about 56-kbps modem shipments this week, notebook PC users will have to wait a while for their faster modems.

Despite all the excitement about the start of 56-kbps modem shipments this week, notebook PC users will have to wait a while for their faster modems.

PC Card (formerly PCMCIA) 56-kbps modems will not ship this quarter. PC Card modems are used almost exclusively in notebook PCs, and the 56-kpbs modems shipping this week from U.S. Robotics (USR) are designed for desktop PCs.

USR will not ship PC Card 56-kbps modems or 56-kbps upgrades until the second quarter, according to the company.

"I know of no one offering [56-kbps] PC Card modems," said Jim Jonez, director of product marketing at Cardinal Technologies, a company offering a USR-compatible modem for desktop PCs.

Analysts confirm that no vendor to date is offering a PC Card 56-kbps modem or announced plans to offer one anytime soon.

All notebook PCs shipped in the last several years come with small slots for accepting PC Card modems, and many notebook vendors these days bundle modems with their systems.

Analysts don't find it too surprising that these 56-kbps modems are delayed, since notebook PCs are used mostly by company employees and companies tend to be more conservative than consumers about deploying new technologies.

"Businesses and corporations will not be the first to jump to 56-kbps technology," said Lisa Pelgrim, senior analyst at Dataquest. "They need time to test the technology and integrate it into their networks."

Moreover, Pelgrim notes that when notebook users on the road plug into hotel telephone lines, in many cases it is impossible to achieve 56-kbps modem speeds even if a user has a 56-kbps modem, since hotel phone switching systems make this impossible.

Nevertheless, consumers and home-office users who use notebooks will be impacted. "They have the option of plugging in an external modem into their notebook, though this isn't a very elegant solution," said Pelgrim.