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Modems plug in to 56 kbps

Even though a 56-kbps standard hasn't yet appeared, Multi-Tech and Practical Peripherals announce upgrades ahead of the pack.

Modem maker Multi-Tech Systems has announced it will upgrade several of its models to 56 kbps with the K56flex technology from Lucent Technologies and Rockwell International. Multi-Tech was joined today by Practical Peripherals, which announced 56-kbps upgrades for its modems.

Multi-Tech's upgrade offer applies to its MultiModemZDX (model MT2834ZDXb), a desktop modem for PCs with serial ports; the MultiModem ZPX (model MT2834ZPXb), an internal modem; and the internal plug-and-play MultiModemZPW (model MT2834ZPW).

Multi-Tech modems purchased after February 1 can be factory upgraded to 56 kbps for $69 plus $15 shipping and handling; enhanced V.34 modems purchased before February 1 can be upgraded for $99 plus $15 shipping and handling.

To obtain the upgrade, users must send the modem, a check drawn on a U.S. bank for the total amount, and proof of purchase to: Attention: 56K Upgrade, Multi-Tech Systems, Inc., 2205 Woodale Drive, Mounds View, MN 55112.

The K56flex technology is not compatible with 56-kbps modem technology from U.S. Robotics called x2.

An ad hoc group of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) is working to create an interim 56-kbps standard by midyear. The group expects to present a working paper to a March 17-27 International Telecommunications Union conference in Geneva. An ITU specification is not expected before year's end.

Multi-Tech's upgrade, which the company said will be available in the second quarter, is slated to appear before a 56-kbps standard has been ratified, but it's not the only modem vendor moving before standards are set. Logicode expects to ship 56-kbps modems using U.S. Robotics' x2 technology this month--as does U.S. Robotics. Cardinal Technologies plans to ship an x2 modem in early March.

Hayes Microcomputer and Motorola both say they'll introduce 56-kbps modems based on Lucent-Rockwell's K56flex next month.

Although the two modem technologies are not compatible, both sides have indicated a software upgrade will make their modems comply with any future standard. In the meantime, customers should contact their Internet service provider before buying a 56-kbps modem, Multi-Tech advised, because the ISP equipment must be compatible with the user's modem.

Starting in early March, Practical Peripherals will upgrade its 33.6-kbps and 28.8-kbps modems to 56 kbps for $89 plus $15 handling. Practical Peripherals customers with a 14.4 kbps or lower modem can upgrade to 56 kbps for $99 plus $15 handling. Under the upgrade program for external, internal, and PCMCIA modems, upgrades must be redeemed by June 30.

Practical Peripherals also said its modems can be upgraded to add voice capabilities.