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More 56-kbps products on tap

Increasingly sophisticated 56-kbps products will become available in September and throughout the fall.

Manufacturers are pressing ahead with products based on 56-kbps technology, despite the likelihood that a preliminary 56-kbps modem standard will not emerge this month.

Increasingly sophisticated 56-kbps products will become available in September and throughout the fall. To allay consumer fears that these items will not be useable with current technology, manufacturers are providing for backwards compatibility and automatic upgrades.

At the high end of the market, Motorola announced a chipset that supports both ISDN (a digital specification that will transfer at 128 kbps) and 56 kbps (which is based on analog technology). Available in two versions, the MCK143453 and the MCK143454, the chipset will give early-adopter ISDN users backwards compatability with current analog standards.

Pricing was not available. Motorola said in a statement the combination ISDN/56-kbps chipset would be available in the fourth quarter of this year.

Focusing on video applications, Boca Research said it will ship its Boca Video Communications Suite in mid-September. The package will include a 56-kbps modem based on Rockwell's K56flex technology and a video camera plus software that enables videoconferencing, whiteboarding, and some editing capabilities.

The Boca Video Communications Suite will have an estimated retail price of $239 and be available through distributors and retailers.

Also next month, New Media will ship its 56K NetSurfer PC card modem, which also uses the K56flex standard. The modem will come bundled with some Internet software, and cost an estimated $199.

Both Boca and New Media will offer free software upgrades to their products once a standard for 56-kbps modems is agreed upon. Currently, modems using 3Com's U.S. Robotics brand with x2 technology don't work with modems based on Rockwell and Lucent K56flex technology.

A hoped-for standard from the International Telecommunications Union will allow consumers to have confidence that all 56-kbps modem products can communicate with each other.