FW: Nonstandard 56Kbps modem activity stirs controversy

Joe Barrera (joebar@microsoft.com)
Mon, 17 Feb 1997 11:29:57 -0800

Nonstandard 56Kbps modem activity stirs controversy
Peace-talk efforts troubled by vendor politics

By Lynda Radosevich and Cara Cunningham

IS managers may see a resolution to the issue of incompatible 56Kbps
modem technologies by midyear if vendor politics don't derail standards
efforts. An ad hoc subcommittee of the Telecommunications Industry
Association (TIA) is working with network-equipment suppliers and service
providers to complete an interim 56Kbps standard.
"We hope to have it wrapped up by midyear," said Barry O'Mahony, ad
hoc committee chairman and a communications engineer at Intel, in Santa
Clara, Calif.
The TIA plans to present a working paper to kick off worldwide 56Kbps
standards efforts at a March 17 to 27 International Telecommunications Union
meeting in Geneva.
Also, Internet service providers (ISPs) and computer-manufacturer
executives that will be affected by the rollout of incompatible modems
informally indicated that they'll help drive disparate camps to a de facto
agreement prior to an interim TIA accord.
The formation of a consortium of companies backing the K56Flex
technology is to be announced as early as this week, said Dennis Hayes,
chairman of Hayes, in Atlanta.
But manufacturers of modems supporting the incompatible x2 56Kbps
technology from U.S. Robotics and K56Flex from Lucent and Rockwell are busy
rolling out pre-standard products and taking swipes at each other.
"I can tell you ... there is not an agreement," said Casey Cowell,
CEO of U.S. Robotics, in Skokie, Ill.
"Everyone in the industry is using [K56Flex] except for U.S.
Robotics," Hayes said.
Adding fuel to the fire, Motorola late last week filed a lawsuit
against U.S. Robotics. In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in
Boston, Motorola said U.S. Robotics infringed on patents on parts of
Motorola's technologies found in the V.34 standard.
The suit also could apply to parts of U.S. Robotics 56Kbps
technologies that may use V.34 as the upstream signaling method.
Obviously, lawsuits are not going to help companies agree on
technology standards. But such agreements remain vital to broad acceptance
of 56Kbps modem technologies and support from major ISPs.
"We will wait until all suppliers agree, and as soon as that happens,
we will implement [56Kbps]," said Alan Taffel, vice president of marketing at
Uunet Technologies, in Fairfax, Va.

Copyright (c) 1997 InfoWorld Publishing Company