Tech Industry

New 56-kbps modems arrive

New 56-kbps modems from U.S. Robotics will hit store shelves as early as Tuesday and make USR the first to bring consumers the high-speed modems.

New 56-kbps modems from U.S. Robotics (USRX) will hit store shelves as early as Tuesday, making the company the first to deliver the high-speed modems to consumers.

Cardinal Technologies also announced it will be shipping modems based on U.S. Robotics' 56-kbps x2 standard in early March.

The U.S. Robotics (USR) 56-kbps-capable Sportster and Courier models are shipping out tonight and should be at retail stores such as CompUSA, Circuit City, and Office Depot by tomorrow, according to a USR spokesperson. Mail-order houses such as Computer Discount Warehouse should also be offering the modems by tomorrow, USR said.

In North America, Sportster 33.6-desktop modems purchased since August 15 and Courier modems can be upgraded to x2 technology. Detailed information on pricing and upgrades can be found at x2's Web site.

Also, Cardinal Technologies will ship its new Connecta line of 56-kbps modems starting in early March. These modems will be priced from $159 to $219. The Connecta models ship preconfigured with x2 technology to run at speeds of up to 56 kbps right out of the box, while the Connecta "56-kbps ready" modems come preconfigured to run at 33.6 kbps and are upgradable through software to 56 kbps.

At almost twice the speed of 28.8-kbps modems, x2 technology will allow users to download data at rates comparable to many ISDN connections but without the need for expensive new telephone equipment required by it and other high-speed connections.

However, achieving these speeds won't happen the instant a user fires up one of these new 56-kbps modems. Internet service providers must have the technology capable of supporting such high speeds and be compatible with USR 56-kbps technology.

Online services such as America Online (the world's largest service provider with approximately 8 million customers) and CompuServe will offer x2 service. ISPs such as Netcom, MCI Communications, Prodigy, IBM Global Network, and US West will also be supporting USR's technology.

The company claims that over 70 percent of subscribers using online services will have access to x2 technology.

AOL, via two subsidiaries, AOL Networks and ANS Communications, today announced that it will conduct the first general field trial of USR's x2 modems starting on February 27.

The general field trial is open to all AOL members with USR modems capable of supporting x2. The general field trial will be conducted in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, and Skokie, Illinois. Special x2 access numbers will be provided in those cities. But members anywhere in the country can also use a special 888 number, although users will be charged extra for using this number, according to AOL.

Other ISPs and online services will follow suit in the next two to four weeks, according to USR.

U.S. Robotics is competing with Rockwell's and Lucent's K56 technology. Modem makers that have announced support for Rockwell Semiconductor technology include Hayes Microcomputer, as well as Shiva and Cisco.

In addition, Rockwell has lined up the support of computer manufacturers such as Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and Toshiba.