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Software modem hits 56 kbps

Motorola is demonstrating a 56-kbps software modem at PC Expo that can upgrade to new communications protocols.

Motorola (MOT) said today that it is demonstrating a 56-kbps software modem at PC Expo.

By using the "host" Pentium processor for computing power rather than special modem chips or a separate DSP (digital signal processor), software modems are expected to be cheaper than standard modems because less hardware is needed.

The 56-kbps modems can also be upgraded with new software to new communications protocols, an issue of importance because there are two competing 56-kbps communications technologies currently on the market. Motorola says its modem uses K56flex technology that is being promoted by Rockwell and Lucent.

Motorola has been demonstrating software modem technology since last year but apparently hasn't announced customers for the technology.

The company joins others such as PCtel and San Ramon, California-based SmartLink in announcing software-based 56-kbps modems. PCtel, which originally planned to ship its product in late March, says the product is currently in production.

In addition, PCtel is working with NEC to produce a software modem for Windows CE devices, according to Navin Rao, PCtel's vice president of marketing. He says the product should ship by the end of the second quarter.