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MSN to offer 56-kbps access

Microsoft's online service joins other online services and ISPs in the higher-speed Internet access game.

The Microsoft Network announced today that it will extend 56-kbps modem access to all of its U.S. customers through Microsoft?s dial-in technology provider, UUNet.

In May, MSN began field trials of 56-kbps technology in seven major cities to prepare for total domestic access. (See related story) Today, MSN cited successful field trials and positive customer feedback as its signal to broaden its service.

"The MSN customers who participated in the 56-kbps trial were critical in providing us customer feedback on the benefits of 56-kbps and improving it," said Larry Mieldezis, a spokesman for MSN. "They were the proving ground to show [56-kbps technology] was stable."

MSN will use K56flex modem technology from Lucent Technologies and Rockwell. Mieldezis explained that Microsoft chose K56flex instead of rival U.S. Robotics' x2 56-kbps technology because the company had already featured Rockwell technology in its network infrastructure. The company said it supports an industry standard and hopes to see one implemented as soon as possible.

Since there is no industry standard for 56-kbps modem technology yet, other ISPs and online services such as America Online have been choosing sides in the escalating war between K56flex and x2.

Other players in the online service arena are rolling out--or already have rolled out--56-kbps access.