By this time, 56k technology is hardly a stranger to most Internet users. However, the historically or technically curious may still find some tidbits of interest stashed away on this page.
ITU Standard Announced
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) announced on February 6, 1998 that it approved a standard for 56k modems, called V.90. The announcement ends a nearly year-long period of two competing proprietary and non-interoperable standards, 3Com's X2 and Rockwell/Lucent's K56Flex.
Most modem manufacturers are offering free upgrades to the V.90 standard for those who have 56k X2 or K56Flex modems. Only certain 33.6 modems are upgradable to 56k and there is a usually a fee.
In a race to bring faster modems to market, modem manufacturers, internet service providers and computer makers have squared off in a battle of epic proportions over 56k technology.
US Robotics weighed in by announcing its X2 56k modem technology in October of 1996. The first US Robotics 56k modems became available in March, 1997. Cardinal Technologies sided with US Robotics and shipped X2 compatible modems. Also siding with USR were Cirrus Logic, Hitachi, AT&T Worldnet and some 400 internet service providers.
Rockwell, Lucent et al.
Meanwhile, Rockwell (the dominant maker of chipsets for modems with about 75% market share) and Lucent Technologies (a spin-off from AT&T) teamed up to offer a competing 56k modem technology. Rockwell called its technology K56Plus and Lucent called its 56k modem technology K56Flex. The two companies eventually cooperated on K56Flex. In the Rockwell/Lucent corner were modem manufacturers Hayes, Motorola, Microcom, Multi-Tech and ZyXEL, networking giant Livingston and Bay Networks and computer heavyweights Compaq and Hewlett Packard, as well as a host of Internet Service Providers such as NetCom and Compuserve
Motorola brought its first 56k modems to market in March 1997, just after US Robotics. In an interesting turn, Motorola then announced that its Tidal Wave program will offer 56k upgrades to both Motorola SURFR series modem owners and to "any consumer who has purchased a modem from vendors committed to X2 type technology [ie, US Robotics and Cardinal], even if Motorola must provide them with a new modem!" With offers like that on the table, clearly the battle for dominance in 56k modem technology promised to be bloody.
3Com Buys US Robotics
In mid 1997, 3Com merged with US Robotics in Silicon Valley's largest merger to date. Before the merger, 3Com had taken sides with Rockwell and Lucent (opposite US Robotics) with regard to 56k technology. Go figure.
Practical Peripherals Makes both X2 and K56Flex
To hedge their bets, Practical Peripherals (owned by Hayes) and Global Village offered some models in both X2 and K56Flex technology.
It has long been thought that the "theoretical limit" on modem speed over an ordinary phone line was 33.6 kbps. 56k modems achieve their speed by avoiding a conversion from digital to analog lines in the connection between user and service provider. Ordinary connections begin over an analog line, are converted to digital by the phone company and are converted back to analog in the final segment before arriving at the service provider. 56k connections begin analog, are converted to digital and are not converted back to analog at the service provider. This requires the service provider to have a direct digital connection and therefore avoids one conversion of the signal. By avoiding this second conversion, speeds of up to 56k and faster are possible. Therefore, modems users need to know that they can only achieve 56k if their service provider supports it.
Interestingly, FCC regulations limit the speed to 53k, but modem makers are fast at work to sidestep and/or waive this rule.
Just because 56k is possible, doesn't mean that every user will achieve it. Poor local phone lines and other conditions may limit speed. Users who are unable to achieve 28.8 or 33.6 with their current service are unlikely to achieve faster connections with a 56k modem.
56k modems download at speeds up to 56kbps, but can upload at only 33.6kbps.
For many home users, 56k Internet access is fast enough to provide for all of their surfing needs. However, for those users who are a little more bandwidth-hungry, a new alternative to 56k technology has arrived: DSL, or the Digital Subscriber Line. This new form of access allows for speeds of up to 4 megabits-per-second on download and 800 kilobits-per-second on uploads, all over existing telephone lines. Better yet, DSL does not interfere with the line itself, allowing for simultaneous voice or fax calls and Internet access. For more information about Jet 2 Net's ADSL solution, please visit our services page..
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Try our Bandwidth Speed Test. It may take a few minutes for the test to complete.
A quick way to determine your Internet Protocol (IP) address.
Modemsite.com is a large source of information on 56k modems, including links to modem drivers.
Read this article to find the settings you need for your Linksys router.
Instructions for uploading your web pages to MNSi using WS-FTP.
Find out how many hits your web pages are getting with our counter program. Simply insert the code on the page with a little modification and that's it!
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IP Addresses and Server information required to properly set up your Internet connection and applications.
Download Jet 2 Net's customized Internet Connection Software. This page also contains links to the web sites of major modem manufacturers, for the purposes of obtaining upgrades for software-based modems.
For additional information regarding 56k modems, their benefits, and limitations, please see our 56k info page.