Heading up the 56Kbps modem race, US Robotics (USR) has released initial performance data following beta tests of its products in December. It promises to ship its first commercial 56Kbps modem technology later this month, making it first to the market, ahead of arch-rivals such as Lucent.
US Robotics conducted tests in 87 US postal districts, to ascertain how many computers users' connections would support 56Kbps, which almost doubles the access time of current V.34 modem links. Results indicate that "the vast majority" of users can download Internet information at the new speed, claims USR, although it was tight-lipped on the percentage of connections that failed.
The early test data is based on nearly 20,000 V.34 calls placed with diagnostic software that predicts whether the connections will support the new technology. Connections that require more than one analogue-to-digital conversion will not support 56Kbps and automatically revert to V.34. This rarely happens in areas with digital telecomms infrastructures or where the Internet service provider uses digitally-connected equipment.
USR is also in the process of obtaining Federal Communications Commission certification for its 56Kbps products. Together with other high speed modem makers, it is also lobbying the FCC to change its rules limiting permitted signal levels.
Currently, FCC rules limit the signal level for transmitting into the digital portion of the network phone lines. Based on product testing to date, the result of this limitation is that the top transmission speed in the downstream link is 53Kbps. At higher signal levels, connections at 56Kbps, and potentially even higher rates, are achieved in laboratory tests.
Although USR's access server and concentrator products will comply with FCC limitations, they will be designed so that they can also work at higher signal levels, for full 56Kbps operation, in countries that permit this. The US rule may change - it is currently being examined by various standards bodies in which most modem makers take part. The rule does not directly affect desktop client modems that receive 56Kbps transmissions, as these do not transmit at the higher signal level.
The next stage in testing the new modem technology is to carry out field trials with Internet service providers using USR equipment.
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