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ISDN Speed Without the Hassle

-- by James E. Powell and John J.Yacono

Thinking of getting ISDN at home? Hold on: Some vendors say they can offer speedier trips over the Internet without the headaches of ISDN.

U.S. Robotics' new line of modems, which uses a new technology called x2, offers speeds of up to 56Kbps-nearly half the speed of a full two-B-channel ISDN connection, but with regular telephone lines. At press time, U.S. Robotics had already lined up 30 ISPs for field trials. Its Sportster modems shipping since August 15 are upgradable, while Megahertz PC Cards will be x2-capable in early 1997. (See "Rip into the Web" in this issue.)

The technology gets close to 56Kbps speed during download using the digital telephone network available in most areas of the country; the speed is achieved by eliminating the analog-to-digital conversion. Uploading and point-to-point communications, however, occur at 28.8 or 33.6Kbps speeds.

Other vendors aren't standing around. Rockwell is said to have the silicon ready for a comparable chip, but may be withholding manufacturing until the backlog of 28.8Kbps and 33.6Kbps modems is reduced. Modems based on this chip have been announced by Amquest, Boca Research, Zoom and others. Hayes plans to upgrade its entire line to 33.6Kbps and incorporate 56Kbps technology in 1997.

Meanwhile, Motorola debuted its software modem solution, dubbed the SM34DFV. By shifting the functionality from the hardware to the software, the company claims users will find it easier to upgrade to faster technologies, such as the 56Kbps standard, as they come down the pike.

Copyright 1997 CMP Media Inc.

(From Windows Magazine, January 1997, page 76.)