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Partnering key to 56 kbps

Microcom and Rockwell will expand their partnership in an effort to drive 56-kbps modem standards.

Microcom (MNPI) and Rockwell Semiconductor (ROK) will expand their partnership in an effort to drive 56-kbps modem standards, the companies said today.

Microcom is developing a communications protocol called MNP 56 that gives 56-kbps modems the ability to transfer larger amounts of data without increasing the connection speed. Rockwell says it will drive MNP 56 as a standard by offering the technology to both users and "central site" companies such as networking giant Cisco Systems, which builds equipment that forms the basic communications backbone for Internet networks. Rockwell will also include the technology in all 56-kbps modems using its chipset.

Rockwell's strategy involves partnering with the manufacturers that make central site modems and other equipment in order for its chipsets to quickly gain acceptance. Earlier this year, the company announced that Cisco would incorporate K56flex technology into its dial-up access products.

Central-site market share is crucial for spreading 56-kbps technology and necessitates having close development ties and partnerships with key equipment providers, according to Armando Geday, vice president and general manager of Rockwell Semiconductor.

Currently, two 56-kbps communications protocols are competing for market share--K56flex from Rockwell and Lucent and x2 from U.S. Robotics--even though the products aren't even available yet. Since there is no current standard which determines how modems should talk to each other at these increased speeds, the modems both at the user's site and at the central access site must use the same protocol to hook up at 56 kbps.