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Firms pick sides in 56-kbps fight

The battle of 56-kbps standards heats up as two major companies ship products based on competing technology.

The battle of 56-kbps standards continues to heat up as two major companies began shipping products based on competing technology.

Boca Research (BOCI) is the latest manufacturer to say it has shipped 56-kbps modems based on Rockwell Semiconductor's K56flex technology while Cirrus Logic (CRUS) is shipping the building blocks of a modem compatible with U.S. Robotics' x2 technology.

Rockwell is competing against modem technology from U.S. Robotics; currently, the two technologies are incompatible and cannot communicate with each other at the 56-kbps rate. For consumers, this means that both the online service provider and the user must use technology from the same company for transmissions to work at the faster rate.

Boca says it has shipped modems to large PC system providers already and will begin full production shipments sometime in March. The 56K Internet Modem will have fax, data, voice, and gaming capabilities, according to the company. It is expected to have a street price ranging from $149 to $169.

Meanwhile, Cirrus Logic says it has begun volume production of a new modem chipset which supports U.S. Robotics' x2 technology for 56-kbps Internet access. U.S. Robotics, in its bid to build support for its technology, is in a position to get more manufacturers to build x2-compatible modems because of the availability of an increased supply of the basic building blocks of a modem.

The new chipset has the advantage of being software upgradable in order to accomodate changing communications protocols, according to Cirrus. U.S. Robotics is using a modem chipset from Texas Instruments which is also software upgradable.

Cirrus says the chipset is priced at $53 in quantities of 1,000 and is currently available. The firmware upgrade code that enables the 56-kbps rate will be available in second quarter of this year.