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Boca modem doubles speed

Will users want the extra bandwidth if the cost of Internet access doubles too?

3 min read
Boca Research (BOCI) hopes to double Internet connection speeds for consumers and small businesses with a modem technology that "glues" together two modems dialed into separate phone lines.

The DynamicDuo 112K modem can achieve connection speeds reaching 112-kbps by taking data from the two streams and converting it into a single stream that is sent to the computer's main processor. Likely to be introduced next week, the Boca product uses regular phone lines even though it approximates the throughput of ISDN, which performs at 128 kbps.

"We believe people want the bandwidth. We're making it easy to quickly utilize the technology. Take a fax line and your modem line, and you are off and running," Larry Light, vice president of engineering for Boca, said of the DynamicDuo modem.

How many people want that much bandwidth is open to debate because in many cases, users will have to set up two accounts at their Internet service provider (ISP), basically doubling the cost of access to get twice the speed. But Light predicted "the market will be bigger than ISDN market. Users will adopt it a lot quicker than ISDN. There's a lot fewer roadblocks to adoption," he said, referring to ISDN's reputation for being difficult to install.

Users can expect to see connection speeds of 94 to 96 kbps, Light said, due to normal variations in the quality of connections. (ISDN, on the other hand, does offer a consistent 128 kbps.) Users also must have ISPs that use K56flex technology, since Boca's modem is based on 56-kbps modem technology that is not interoperable with x2 technology from 3Com's U.S. Robotics.

One DynamicDuo's advantages over a single-line analog modem is that the Internet connection isn't interrupted when a call is made. "If you have the call waiting feature on your phone lines, the modem will drop off, and you'll get a ring. When you hang up, the software will restore the connection into double speed mode. It doesn't interrupt your Internet connection," Light said.

Boca's new modem is expected to reach the market before another recently announced dual-line modem from Diamond Multimedia Systems (DIMD).

Diamond unveiled a proprietary technology called Shotgun, which also provides speeds of up to 112 kbps. However, customers interested in using the Shotgun technology need to be connected with an Internet service provider (ISP) which uses Ascend Communications' networking equipment, according to industry analysts, while Boca says that its dual-line modem can connect to an ISP with any brand of K56flex-based networking equipment.

Both Diamond and Boca will show their modems off at the upcoming Comdex trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Boca expects to ship its DynamicDuo modem by December, while Diamond expects to ship its modem by early next year. Boca says the modem should cost around $300, but final pricing is not yet set.

Separately, a market research firm reported that 56-kbps modems outsold 33.6-kbps modems for the first time in September. The news is significant because it's been thought that consumers are shying away from purchasing 56-kbps modems until an industry standard is settled upon.

Measured in dollars, sales of modems based on 56-kbps technology edged sales of 33.6-kbps modems, accounting for 46 percent and 45 percent of the market, respectively, according to PC Data. Although more 33.6-kbps modems were sold than 56-kbps modems, they are less expensive.

Modems based on 3Com's x2 technology claimed 20 percent of the market, while modems based on K56flex technology claimed 12 percent.