Bay Networks will enter a headlong race with 3Com to bring standards-based cable modems to market first.
Four days after 3Com previewed its new retail modems, which conform to the emerging Multimedia Cable Network Systems (MCNS) specification, Bay will today release its own product. It claims its modems will hit the stores "early in the second quarter" of 1998, about the same timeframe that 3Com is quoting for its VSP range.
Both companies have gained the technology for their new ranges from acquisitions - Bay from Lancity, which it bought over a year ago, and 3Com from US Robotics. The MCNS modems will be branded with the USR name, better known in the consumer modem world, and will be called Cable Modem VSP and VSP Plus. They will receive their first public outing at the Comdex show in Las Vegas this week.
The MCNS specification has been devised by a consortium of the same name, consisting mainly of large cable providers. Although Bay's forthcoming product supports the standard, 3Com claimed today that it had worked "particularly closely" with the MCNS group to develop its equipment.
The main difference between the two vendors' offerings will be in the connection - 3Com/USR will use a cheap but slower telephone connection to send data to the Internet, while Bay will use high speed cable bandwidth in both directions. This is likely to make the retail price of the Bay devices higher. US prices of the VSP modem will be around $199 at retail and 3Com will release two-way models by mid-year. Bay's chief technology officer Gerry White said standards would drive prices swiftly downwards and cable modems should go below $100 by mid-1999.
Levent Gun, vice president of 3Com's cable division, said the market for these modems would speed up after a sluggish start once network equipment makers took control rather than cable companies, which are unused to providing customer support and service. The MCNS standard makes this possible as it enables modems to be interoperable across different cable systems.
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