Seven local ISPs running with USR's 56k modems - but not the big ones

Seven local ISPs have bought into 3Com/US Robotics' X2 modems, giving that vendor an early lead in the battle between the two competing 56.6Kbit/s modem technologies. The big ISPs, however, seem compelled by their existing remote access gear to go with the rival Rockwell-based K56 Flex technology, which has been considerably slower to get to market.

Seven local ISPs have bought into 3Com/US Robotics' X2 modems, giving that vendor an early lead in the battle between the two competing 56.6Kbit/s modem technologies.

Motorola which supports the rival K56 Flex technology, has only just got out of the starting blocks in New Zealand but is bullish, claiming that 70% of the world’s ISPs use remote access equipment based on the Rockwell chipset and thus can only use Rockwell-based K56 Flex modems.

The other 15% of ISPs use Cisco equipment which also uses 56K Flex, says Motorola distributor Hamish McTavish of Megadyne. McTavish says 90% of New Zealand ISPs use Ascend equipment (based on the Rockwell chipset), including ISP heavyweights Clear Net and Telecom Xtra. Clear is expected to go with K56 Flex.

Meanwhile, local USRobotics distributor Insite Technology has sold X2 based modems to Internet Prolink’s Wellington and Auckland offices, South Net in Invercargill, SkySurf in Auckland, CyberNet in Wellington, Jetz Internet in Auckland, Cyber Express Plains Communications in Christchurch and PlaNet in Nelson. Voyager is understood to be looking at offering both options.

Telecom Xtra is currently testing 56Kflex technology and has no plans to test US Robotics according to spokesperson Robyn Bern. ClearNet is also likely to go with the Rockwell 56Kflex technology.

Iprolink, the largest ISP customer of US Robotics has been running an X2 service for about a month. Spokesman Mark Jenet says Iprolink will probably stay with that technology until the International Telecommunications Union announces a single standard in January. Vendors of both types of equipment are offering free upgrades to make products compatible to the standard once it is set.

But the new generation of remote access servers may also make any arguments obsolete. Bay Networks has just announced that its remote access server will soon support both schemes. California based Bay is adding X2 support because it wanted to offer broader coverage and gain access to numerous 3Com accounts that use Bay’s remote access servers. When Bay’s server can handle both, users with either type of modem will be able to dial into Bay’s server.

In September, Bay will offer X2 support as a free software upgrade for a card in its MSX remote access server.

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