Fast modem makers leaving standards behind

It's not just the likely real-world performance but the lack of standards around 56kbits/sec modems that has users concerned. Could we be heading for a generation of modems which can't speak to each other?

It's not just the likely real-world performance but the lack of standards around 56kbits/sec modems that has users concerned. Could we be heading for a generation of modems which can't speak to each other?

Rockwell Semiconductor Systems and Lucent Technologies Inc. are working on products based on one standard, while U.S. Robotics is developing competing products and standards.

Earl Perkins, a network manager at Entergy Corp. in New Orleans, says he is interested in the technology, but the lack of standards worries him.

"You want these modems to be able to talk to each other," Perkins says.

The Telecommunications Industry Association expects to hammer out an interoperability standard by June, but industry experts suspect the group won't be finished until year's end.

Lucent and U.S. Robotics expect to ship products in this quarter, and U.S. Robotics is currently conducting trials of its modems.

"Unfortunately, standards aren't ready. So we can wait and watch our competition come out with something, or we can come out with something as well," says Martin Rauchwerk, manager of modem marketing at Lucent's microelectronics division.

Renee Bader, senior director of product marketing at Xircom, Inc. in Thousand Oaks, California, says the standards war is a problem. Xircom is working on 56Kbits/sec products using Lucent's technology.

"It's a significant disservice to users," Bader says. "We hope they figure it out in a short time frame."

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