If you want a modem for Christmas, don't hold your breath. Vendors predict widespread confusion after US Robotics' launch of x2 modems, which increase Web download speeds to 56Kbps. Data sent to your service provider or another modem is still limited to 33.6Kbps but x2 could cut download times by half.
The USR modems and others based on Texas Instruments chips will be available in January. High-end USR modems and Sportsters sold after September 15 will be upgradable.
They are supported by more than 30 providers, including CompuServe, AOL, CableNet, Netcom and UUNet Pipex. But Rockwell, which says its modem chips are used by 70 per cent of providers, has a non-compatible 56Kbps technology.
Its chips are used in Ascend, Cascade, Microcom, Racal and Shiva modems.
Some manufacturers say there's no point buying a 56Kps modem until a standard is agreed.
Demon Internet's marketing manager, James Gardiner, said 56Kbps was "a bit of a red herring" because 64Kbps ISDN is getting cheaper. BT and Demon, both of which use equipment with Rockwell chips, will wait for ITU to declare a standard before they upgrade.
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