The forthcoming V.pcm standard for 56Kbps modems is not the end of the war in this sector.
Concerns have been raised that modems built to the standard will not necessarily be interoperable.
Modem vendors agreed in December to collaborate on the V.pcm standard, a compromise between the non-compatible X2 and K56Flex technologies. A draft of the standard is expected to be approved by a committee of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on 6 February.
This will allow vendors to ship systems said to comply with the standard. Such systems are expected to be in shop windows in a matter of days. However, some vendors are admitting that the standard does not guarantee interoperability.
Three manufacturers currently supply 56Kbps modem chips to the market. Lucent Technologies (which manufactures K56Flex chips) and 3Com (which makes X2 chips and modems) announced on 20 January that they had agreed on interoperability testing. However, no such agreement exists between these two vendors and Rockwell, which delivers chips to companies like Hayes and Xircom.
"Unless you go through rigorous interoperability testing, you may assume that systems will not be interoperable", warned Lucent spokesperson Mike Jacobs. Jacobs said he expects an agreement on interoperability tests "within weeks", but other sources are less optimistic.
Some press reports are even warning that the compatibility problems might escalate. Instead of just two competing modem standards, there would be five: X2, K56Flex, and three different implementations of V.pcm from 3Com, Lucent and Rockwell.
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