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AOL expands 56-kbps access

The No. 1 online service extends its higher-speed access to 410 cities just one day after rival Microsoft Network's rollout of 56-kbps access.

America Online (AOL) today announced the expansion of its 56-kbps access to 410 cities, using 3Com?s x2 technology.

Today?s announcement comes just one day after rival Microsoft Network announced a complete domestic 56-kbps access rollout using Rockwell and Lucent Technologies' K56flex technology. (See related story)

AOL and MSN are among a list of service providers that have jumped on the 56-kbps access bandwagon in response to customer demands for faster connections. As reported last week by CNET's NEWS.COM, AT&T WorldNet Service also announced its 56-kbps offering, supported solely by x2 technology. And Bell Canada announced today its plans for a widespread launch of high-speed Net access via copper wires.

AOL also has begun to extend its faster service into the international arena. Currently, the provider is undergoing preliminary internal x2 technology field tests in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Japan, and expects to open up to larger audiences in the months ahead.

AOL conducted field tests with 3Com's technology in 200 cities, starting in June 1997. The company conducted field tests for K56flex modem technology as well. Though the access pool for K56flex is smaller than that of x2, AOL plans to maintain its support of both technologies until an international standard is in place.

"I believe that consumers have largely been on the sidelines waiting to see what happens with the 56-kbps standard," said Matt Korn, AOL Networks' senior vice president for operations. "Now that AOL supports both standards, I expect it?s going to be a 56-kbps Christmas [for AOL customers]."