Industry giants Compaq, Intel and Microsoft are behind a move to introduce high speed digital subscriber line (DSL) comms technology to consumers by Christmas 1998.
The idea brings the three leaders in the PC market together behind modem technology that offers Internet access at speeds of up to 8Mbps using existing copper telephone wire, but working at higher frequencies and so allowing phone calls to be made at the same time.
This would provide even greater speed than current DSL technologies under development at Lucent and other fast modem makers (see separate story), and dwarfs the performance of current 56Kbps modems.
Although details are not confirmed, sources said the companies will make an announcement next week, with partners including five major US telcos. Rumours suggest the consortium will aim at 1.5Mbps products at prices just above current modem prices.
DSL has been too expensive for the majority of small businesses and consumers so far but the three giants could afford to make it cheaper and to pre-install it in PCs, opening the promise of DSL to the mass market. If they come up with a standard, the work already done on DSL guidelines by Lucent Technologies, Northern Telecom and Rockwell Semiconductor will need adapting or could be abandoned.
Data transmission at up to 30 times current rates could open the market for online video and videophones to the consumer market. DSL faces a battle with ISDN and cable modem technology for faster Internet access. US television companies have worked on cable modems and hope to beat the other technologies to market. But DSL has the advantage of using existing phone lines and being simpler to install for the consumer.
Analysts said Microsoft has hedged its bets cleverly in the comms market through its involvement in the consortium backing DSL, coupled with its investments in the television companies developing cable modems. Most agree that a standard needs to set by the companies to ensure DSL becomes successful.
Earlier this week, Intel also introduced Internet service providers to Quick Web, a compression technology to speed up Internet access.
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