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56K.COM: 56K Modems, x2 and K56flex
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Newsflashes - February 18, 1998

Ready to buy a 56K modem? Don't open your wallet until you've seen the new feature at 56K.COM. Tune in Friday.

3Com is now shipping V.90 modems to stores. Upgrades are not yet available. If you registered your 3Com, U.S. Robotics, or Megahertz 56K modem, you will be notified by 3Com when upgrades are released. You can register and get more information at 3Com's 56K Central web page. Information for 3Com/USR server products is available here.

The ITU has decided to use a stripped-down version of Discrete Multitone (DMT) for G. Lite, its lower-cost, consumer-oriented DSL technology. Wired and xDSL News have coverage.

A press release from Keynote Systems - a testing house for Internet performance data - says that DSL and cable modems won't completely solve Internet speed issues, because the Internet itself will limit the performance of these new technologies. The report includes performance data and recommendations for increasing Internet speeds.

Who made this stupid modem?!
I frequently get email from readers who have no idea who manufactured their modem. Here's one way to find out: all products approved by the U.S. FCC (Federal Communications Commission) have an FCC ID number printed somewhere on the device. You can search the FCC Equipment Authorization Database to match the FCC ID number to the product and manufacturer.


February 16

New ISP areas open

The High Speed Internet Service Provider list now features ISPs offering ISDN, DSL, and cable modem access. These latest additions put the number of web pages at 56K.COM at more than 500 strong. (That's 500 pages, not links.)

News

Sprint and Earthlink have joined forces to create a 600,000-member ISP. There's a press release, and coverage in Media Daily and Wired News.

Cirrus Logic, a popular OEM modem maker, announced plans for V.90 interoperability testing with 3Com, GDC, Lucent, and Rockwell.

Shane Lord of Sirius Technologies - the modem maker that now encompasses NetComm, Banksia, Dataplex, Simple Computing and Avtek - wrote to say that Sirius has announced support for V.90. Upgrades are expected in March or April.

Shane also provides an explanation for something I noted on Friday:

Just a bit of info you may or may not know... You mentioned in your news that two other companies have announced that their modems will support V.90 in March, but that they can only use one or the other (V.90 or K56flex).

The reason for this is because the original reference design (and the single chip RCxxx56ACF/xx chipset) supplied by Rockwell to modem manufacturers for K56flex, incorporated 1 meg flash EEPROMs, as the chipset used was limited by the memory it could access.

K56flex, being the highly complex code that it is, takes almost all of the 1 meg flash EEPROM, and therefore there is no further room for extended code expansion (such as V.90 implementation). The need for two firmware revisions loaded at once was not foreseen in the iniital implementation of 56k. This is why units based on this design can only have K56flex or V.90 loaded in firmware at any one time, not both.

To support both in firmware, Rockwell have released a new reference design, and a 2 chip solution, that can reference a larger set of memory. All future designed products from the Sirius Technologies group of companies (NetComm/ Banksia/ Simple/ Avtek) will incorporate this.


February 13

Logicode is out of the modem business. In a press release dated February 6, Logicode announced that it has stopped producing modems and is seeking a buyer for its manufacturing equipment and other assets. Effective February 16, technical support and warranty inquiries can be directed to 20600 Prairie Street, Chatsworth, California 91311-6008, 818-678-1850. The company's web site is still online for now.

In the yet another DSL department, Centillium is promoting what it calls Universal DSL. Key features include low power consumption, low cost for the consumer DSL equipment, ease of deployment, and the ability to work over distances greater than 18,000 feet. The company has a press release.

V.90 upgrades

Multi-Tech and Xircom announced plans for free V.90 upgrades in March.

Like Hayes, Multi-Tech and Xircom modems will have ability to support V.90 and K56flex, but apparently not both at the same time. They can use one or the other, and re-installation (which probably means a firmware change) will be required to switch between them. The three vendors all call this feature by slightly different names - including "dual modem capacity," "dual capability, "and "dual mode capacity, " respectively - but it's clear they're reading from the same page.

New @ 56K.COM

  • A new page tracks modem maker's plans for releasing V.90 upgrades, and includes expected release dates.
  • At the same time, I'm archiving the 56K upgrade page, which kept track of offers to upgrade 28.8 and 33.6 modems to 56K. Most of the upgrade offers have expired.
  • The 56K Troubleshooting Guide has become a multipage document for faster loading.
  • The DSL and cable modem pages on the Link Board have been expanded, and the modem manufacturer's page continues to grow.


February 11

The ITU's V.90 56K modem standard isn't even a week old, but companies are already announcing new products and upgrades. Look for a new page at 56K.COM to track the release of V.90 upgrades.

Shiva claims to be the first company to put V.90 upgrades in the field. Selected sites have received the upgrades, which will be available on Shiva's web site Monday, February 16th.

Hayes announced that its first V.90 products will have what Hayes calls dual modem capacity: they will support both K56flex and V.90 for maximum compatibility. I'd be surprised if other modem vendors didn't offer the same feature. Hayes expects to ship V.90 products "as early as March 1998."

A Diamond Multimedia press release states that Diamond has begun V.90 interoperability testing. According to the release, the company's Supra 56K product line has established connections with both V.90-enabled Ascend MAX and 3Com Total Control servers, though it does not say at what speed. Diamond expects to offer V.90 upgrades this quarter.

Boca Research is offering a V.90 interoperability money back guarantee to assure customers that their V.90 products will interoperate with other V.90 products. Boca expects to ship standards-based modems by March, and free upgrades for existing Boca 56K modems by April.

Wired News reports that Rockwell began shipping V.90 chipsets on Monday, just days after approval of the standard. Rockwell doesn't sell modems, but the company makes the chips used by more than a hundred modem makers. Upgrades to V.90 for existing Rockwell-based modems will be delivered by the individual manufacturers, not by Rockwell.

Motorola expects to have V.90 upgrades on its web site by second quarter, according to a press release.


February 9

As reported here Friday and in a weekend update, the ITU has a recommended 56K standard, V.90 (formerly V.pcm).

Wired News estimates that sales of 56K modems will rise from 10 million units in 1997 to 30 million units in 1998, an increase attributed partly to the new standard.

A new 3Com page promises more information about their standards-based products and upgrades on February 16th.

A new Hayes web site, www.56kstandard.com, will track Hayes' release of standards-based products and upgrades.

For more coverage of the new standard, see Friday's news on 56K.COM. I'm contacting Rockwell this week to address questions about interoperability of Rockwell's V.90 with other V.90 implementations.

The listings for ISDN, DSL, and cable modem ISPs are taking longer than expected. Look for the new areas next Monday, the 16th.


Weekend update: V.90 officially designated

The ITU has officially designated the recommended international 56K standard as V.90. This replaces the working title of V.pcm. The ITU has issued a press release. Late Friday, Ken Krechmer updated his report at Communications Standards Review with the latest information, and News.com has a story.


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56K.COM is written and maintained by Les Jones. Artwork by Mark Maxwell.

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