The claims of the 56Flex consortium to offer the dominant 56Kbps modem technology received a blow this week when Bay Networks announced it would also support the rival X2 specification spearheaded by US Robotics (3Com-USR).
Bay's decision to hedge its bets is an admission that the communications industry itself is still unclear which of the two competing specifications will succeed, which only adds to user confusion.
Bay will build X2 technology into its DSP (digital signal processing) based 5399 remote access concentrator and will also use it in future products.
Trevor Dearing, UK product marketing manager at Bay, said: ?We?ve taken the decision to support both because no one technology appears to be completely dominant. This will keep our customers happy and we will support X2 in future DSP products.?
Under the terms of an agreement with 3Com-USR, Bay will get technical specifications and support for X2 and will cooperate with its habitual arch rival to test interoperability for the technology.
One of the reasons for Bay supporting X2 in addition to 56Flex - which is more widely taken up by networking vendors - is widespread adoption by US Internet service providers. So far, over 400 have said they will support X2, including Netcom, Compuserve, Prodigy, IBM and others.
Ross Manire, senior vice president of 3Com?s carrier systems unit, said: ?Bay?s commitment gives X2 technology an even broader reach. ISPs planning X2 support will reach estimated 70 per cent of Internet subscribers, potentially 18 million.?
The situation among UK ISPs is more confused. UUnet Pipex is supporting both X2 and K56Flex but Demon Systems believes that the time is not yet ripe to introduce 56Kbps technology into the UK at all, because of the wider use of ISDN for Internet access. The price of ISDN installation is set to fall again this autumn and that is a more viable platform for end users, Demon believes.
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