Rockwell, Bay clash on modem technology

Bay Networks has just what everyone wants: a way to support all forms of 56Kbit/s modems on a single access platform. Everyone, that is, except Rockwell Semiconductor Systems, and it is taking the issue to court in a bid to derail Bay's plan to ship interoperable products by the end of the year.

Bay Networks has just what everyone wants: a way to support all forms of 56Kbit/s modems on a single access platform. Everyone, that is, except Rockwell Semiconductor Systems.

Rockwell claims that by selling cards that support the two existing 56Kbit/s modem technologies, Bay is breaking a licensing agreement with Rockwell. Rockwell is backing that argument with a lawsuit seeking that Bay not use Rockwell's K56flex modem technology or the K56-flex name in products that are interoperable with modem technology from rival 3Com.

Bay says the lawsuit filed last week in California is less about licensing and more about Rockwell's desire to control the market and limit customer choice.

Bay has announced two new 56Kbit/s modem cards for its MSX 5000 chassis, one based on Rockwell's K56flex modem technology and the other based on rival x2 technology from 3Com.

With both cards in the MSX 5000 chassis, customers could use one box to support users of any 56Kbit/s modem.

But if Rockwell gets its way, users will have to use two separate hardware platforms if they want to support a mix of x2 and K56flex callers. Bay maintains the two modem cards are separate products and do not afford interoperability. It dismisses the action as a nuisance lawsuit.

Bay says that it could have designed a single modem that supported K56flex and x2, but that would have created an interoperable K56flex-x2 product. Bay says it thinks all 56K modems should interoperate the way they would if there actually were a 56Kbit/s modem standard. "But short of a standard to support, the best thing to do was support both products," says Jon Sieg, vice-president of Bay's signal processing group.

Bay says it plans to release its RAC 5399 56K-bps modem cards by year's end.

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