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Faster cable modems from Motorola

Motorola launches a new line of faster cable modems.

Motorola (MOT) launched a new line of fast cable modems in an attempt to encourage cable companies to upgrade systems with new modem technologies as they become available.

Motorola also announced price cuts of up to 20 percent on its current line of CyberSurfr cable modems, with prices as low as $325 when purchased in volume.

The company said its new CyberSurfr Wave modem will download data from the network at a rate of 10 megabits per second (mbps), and can now send data out as fast as 1.5 mbps. The CyberSurfr Wave modem is faster than the previous generation of CyberSurfr modems, which had upstream transmission rates of 768 kilobits per second (kbps).

By contrast, typical analog modems can send and receive data at a much slower pace of 33.6 kbps.

Motorola and the rest of the cable industry are counting on a standard to "consumerize" cable modems. In the emerging world of cable service, cable modems would be readily available on retail shelves and accompanying high-speed Internet service would become more prevalent.

Motorola is supporting MCNS, an abbreviation for Multimedia Cable Network System Partners, which has emerged as a strong candidate. But a firm standard isn't expected to be established until the second half of 1998.

Industry analysts indeed expect a wide range of cable modems to be available to consumers via retail outlets by late 1998, but currently, when users want high-speed cable modem service, they must have their cable company install the service--if it is offered. The expensive devices also have to be used with the same brand of equipment that the cable company is using at its main office, much as PC users with 56-kbps modems have to use the same technology as their Internet Service Provider.

"What Motorola is spelling out with this announcement is a migration strategy to get cable operators from their [Motorola's] proprietary system to this open model. That's a vital issue for cable operators. Motorola's migration strategy is of great interest to the industry," says Michael Harris, president of Kinetic Strategies, a cable industry and Internet research firm.

Motorola has also added new features to its Cable Data equipment, including the ability to guarantee the amount of bandwidth going to a customer. Another new feature is IP Multicast, which allows cable companies to save bandwidth by delivering every thing from rock concerts to financial data simultaneously to multiple users.