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Motorola ready with 56-kbps modems

Motorola will launch a 56-kbps assault of its own next week in the wake of the new shipments of high-speed modems by U.S. Robotics.

Motorola (MOT) will launch a 56-kbps assault of its own next week in the wake of the new shipments of high-speed modems this week by U.S. Robotics.

Motorola will announce its 56-kbps modems on March 3 and begin shipping four models within two weeks, modems which are based on the K56 technology from Rockwell.

Rockwell's K56 technology is compatible with 56-kbps technology from Lucent Technologies, but neither of those will work with U.S. Robotics x2 technology. U.S. Robotics (USR) 56-kbps modems hit store shelves this week.

Two of the modems in Motorola's ModemSurfr series will come with standard data and fax capabilities, while two other models will also have voice capabilities.

Motorola claims its modems will be the first capable of true 56-kbps speeds on downloads, according to Remi Rieger, a Motorola product manager, because of Motorola's patent-pending noise-canceling technology. The modems also include software that can send email or faxes to a Motorola pager or cellular phone.

These new modems can receive data as fast as 56 kbps as long as Internet service providers have compatible modems on their end. However, download speeds may be slower in general for certain users depending on data traffic and the level of 56-kbps technology the ISP has. Moreover, the speed that users can send data at will not top 33.6 kbps.

The dueling Rockwell and USR standards is not expected to be formally settled until the International Telecommunications Union agrees on one protocol, a move not expected until June 1998. In the meantime, vendors and ISPs backing the Rockwell-Lucent technologies have formed an Open 56K Forum to promote interoperability, an effort that U.S. Robotics said today it may endorse.

Users who buy Motorola's 56-kbps modem can save up to $50 on Internet access from Epoch Networks. Motorola intends to add other ISPs to the program as they install compatible equipment for Motorola's new modems.

The Tidal Wave protection program assures that 56-kbps modem buyers can upgrade to a future 56-kbps industry standard; the upgrade program also is open to buyers of Motorola 28.8- or 33.6-kbps modems purchased by May 31.

Retail prices for the ModemSurfr 56K, which handles both data and faxes, are estimated at $159 for an internal model and $179 for an external one. The VoiceSurfr 56K, with voice, data, and fax capabilities, will cost $179 for an internal modem and $199 for an external one. Those prices are competitive with or slightly less than those of USR and Hayes Microcomputer Products.

Motorola also unveiled a series of marketing initiatives to push its 56-kbps modems, including an upgrade program to future 56-kbps modem standards and a cut rate for users who sign up with an ISP that has compatible modems.