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AT&T to offer 3Com's 56-kbps access

In a move to jump on the high-speed bandwagon, AT&T WorldNet offers 56-kbps access to customers who have 3Com's x2 modems.

In a move to jump on the high-speed bandwagon, AT&T WorldNet Service said it will provide 56-kbps access technology starting today.

Also, the company said that for the moment, it will offer the service only to customers whose 56-kbps modems employ networking giant 3Com's x2 technology.

As part of the deal, 3Com also will offer a $50 rebate to WorldNet subscribers who purchase x2 modems before January 17.

The company said that starting today it will offer x2 modem technology in 11 cities including Cincinnati Houston, Milwaukee, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Charlotte, North Carolina; and Tampa, Florida. Fifteen additional cities will be upgraded by the end of November. AT&T plans to gradually roll out the technology upgrade to all its subscribers by next June, but it did not specify a future batch of selected markets.

The announcement highlights both the trend among ISPs to offer more efficient access technology, and the growing rift between 56-kbps technology preferences.

The x2 technology was originally developed by U.S. Robotics but is now a part of 3Com since the company acquired the modem manufacturer earlier this year.

x2 modems are in direct competition with K56flex technology developed by Rockwell and Lucent Technologies. The two technologies are incompatible and cannot communicate with each other, thus complicating the possibility of an industry standard. Some users who want to upgrade are waiting until a standard is decided upon, to avoid owning the Betamax of modems.

"3Com was already built into our network and we were able to rapidly upgrade with x2. After extensive testing, we found x2 was acceptable and we could immediately make it available to subscribers," said Jonathan Varman, a spokesman for AT&T.

AT&T plans to extend its service to K56flex users by year's end.

AT&T WorldNet is another addition to the list of ISPs that have started to feature 56-kbps access technology as subscriber demand for speed and efficiency has ballooned in recent months.