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Communications Devices
Competing technologies broaden your communications options.

No one chants the "faster, cheaper, more" mantra of the Information Age louder than the modem industry.

Riding the coattails of a series of new technologies, the modem market moved closer to communications nirvana over the past year. Modems became valuable all-around office tools, incorporating a speakerphone, voice mail and Internet-access bundles. Innovative 33.6Kb-per-second modems joined the fold as part of a new standard called V.34-1996. ISDN modems finally entered the mainstream, as availability increased while prices of equipment and services fell.

The coming year will likely set the stage for a battle royal among analog, software, Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), cable and ISDN modems. Analog modems will receive a boost if 56Kbps modem technology becomes standardized, but problems remain, such as lack of Internet service provider support and competition between proposed standards.

Software modems, which offload computational chores onto the system CPU, are a promising alternative. The concept can be broadened to include network functions, too, making LAN/modem combos the same price as single-purpose units. Over time, software modems could also support ISDN technology.

Delivered over the same wiring as standard phone service, ADSL provides a high-speed downstream channel (data coming into your computer) at up to 8Mb per second with an upstream channel at less than 1Mbps. However, the phone company central office can't be too far away from the subscriber and must add equipment to support the modem.

Cable modems can send 30Mbps to a group of subscribers (cable service is not point to point). Unfortunately, the infrastructure for many cable companies allows only one-way transmission--from the service to subscribers. In that case, you also need a plain modem on a telephone line to send information from your PC.





Communications Devices: The Winners

Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.