A New Year, A Faster Modem…Again…

[reprinted from IEEE - Fort Worth Section Signals January 1997]

by Jeff Carrell, Electronic Communications Chairman

14.4Kbps in 1994, 28.8Kbps in 1995, 33.6Kbps in 1996, 56Kbps in 1997, where will it end? How many of these different speed modems do you own? It is beginning to appear that every year we're going to be purchasing a newer, faster modem, or upgrading the existing modem we have. (this is the Tim Taylor syndrome again, need more speed)

You are probably wondering which Internet Service Provider (ISP) will be supporting connections with that new 56K modem that you received for Christmas. Well, if your one of the early adopters of this technology, your answer is not many, if any at all anytime soon. In limited research, I have not found any Dallas/Fort Worth ISPs announcing specific implementation plans, or timelines when they will be installing or upgrading to 56K modems. Flashnet Communications (FTW) is the only ISP in our area listed on the USR web page as supporting the X2 technology (USR name for 56K modem technology) in the future, but Flashnet has not released any other information that I am aware of.

There are at least four manufacturers that have announced plans and/or products supporting this new modem speed. The catch, there has yet to be a standard defined, and it doesn't appear that there will even be a standard available until late 1997 or into 1998. Rockwell Semiconductor Systems, Lucent Technologies, Motorola Information Systems Group, and USRobotics have all announced their plans for 56K modems and chip sets available for other modem manufacturers. Of these, it appears that USR has the market share of modems installed by ISPs making it easier and less expensive for them to upgrade. More importantly, since there is no standard, none of the currently announced products will inter-operate with each other at 56K speeds, but may communicate with each other at only 33.6K speeds.

Some key technology issues:

After reading this brief introduction on 56K modems, you may feel I am being negative about the technology. I am not trying to put it down, rather bring to light some of the key issues about it, and let you decide for yourself. My recommendation would be to position yourself with modem technology that is capable of supporting this new 56K technology, but hold off trying to implement until it is a more mature and standards supporting product.

For more information and manufacturers links on 56K modems, visit this excellent URL:


Have a question or want to know more details about e-mail, the Internet, electronic communications or related technologies? Send a note to me or Signals editor and we will try discuss it in a future article. If your society, company or other organization would like an Internet presentation let me know. (no commercial pitch)

Copyright © 1996 Jeffrey L. Carrell. All Rights Reserved