July 1998--You just bought a shiny
new 56K modem and have connected it to your system. You fire it up
and see a maximum connect rate of 33.6. You check the box and manual
and verify that it says 56K, so you try again. But 33.6 returns as
if etched in stone. You scratch your head, think you may have a bad
modem, and return it for another. Same results. Scratching your head
you figure you're cursed.
Sound farfetched? Not based on the many messages
from the newsgroups here. The modem world is in a state of
transition and probably will be until at least September and
When 56K modems were introduced, there were two
different versions, one developed by USR (now called
3Com) and another by
USR/3Com's version is called "X2" and the Rockwell/Lucent method is
called 56Kflex. And as things go in the computer world, the two are
not compatible. This means if you purchased an X2 modem and try to
connect to an Internet Service Provider that only supports 56Kflex,
the maximum connect speed you will get is 33.6.
The two different companies have worked out the
differences in their products. The new method is called v.90 and it
is expected that it will be ratified later this year. Once that
happens, ISPs and modem manufacturers will finally be able to
produce products that will work everywhere.
Some modem vendors have already started releasing
v.90 support for their modems. However many ISPs have not yet
installed v.90 code on their equipment, which means that to achieve
a 56K connection today, you need a modem that supports the version
of 56K the ISP is using.
There is an additional "gotcha" with the 56Kflex
modems. The first modems that were produced were capable of being
updated to v.90 by a software upgrade. However, it appears that the
modems are only able to store one type of 56K support, either
56Kflex or v.90. If the v.90 code is installed, a user could no
longer achieve a 56Kflex connection and if the ISP didn't have v.90
support the connection dropped down to 33.6.
We suggest you wait till your ISP has upgraded to
v.90 before upgrading your 56Kflex modem. X2 modems do not have this
problem. They have the ability to store both X2 and v.90 support in
the modem and use whichever version the ISP supports.
Next month, we will continue the 56K discussion
and examine why the 56K connection is "one-way" only.