Lucent is shipping samples of the chips to companies such as Toshiba. The Mars chipset, as the product is called, consists of just two chips, fewer than normal. Notebooks can therefore be made smaller while still supporting features such as full duplex speakerphone, DSVD (digital simultaneous voice data), and videoconferencing.
The chips, which incorporate Lucent and Rockwell's K56flex technology, also require 40 percent less power than most current modems, Lucent claims. This means notebooks can operate longer on battery power.
Lucent says the Mars chipset incorporates a PCI interface, eliminating the need for other chips to act as a "translator" between the chips and the rest of the system.
Software in modems based on the Mars product can be upgraded to support future communications protocols, according to Lucent. Currently, 56-kbps technology from Rockwell or Lucent doesn't interoperate with U.S. Robotics' 56-kbps technology, called x2. As with all 56-kbps modems, users have to make sure their modems can communicate with modems used by service providers to attain the higher connection speed. Otherwise, modems will default to the 33.6-kbps transmission standard.
The Mars chipset is also offered for use in desktop systems. Toshiba and other notebook vendors are receiving sample shipments now, with volume shipments to commence in July. Lucent says the chipset is priced at $65 in production quantities of 10,000 or more.