V.90 may reopen modem debate for users

V.90 may reopen modem debate for users

Modems based on the new V.90 standard are beginning to trickle into Australia but users may be waiting for some time before the promises of standards compatibility materialise at the 56Kbps speed.

Sirius Technologies managing director David Stewart said yesterday that the company will ship V.90 compatible modems within the next few weeks.

Formed as a result of the recent merger between Banksia and Netcomm, Sirius claims to control more than half the modem market in Australia. The company is looking to jump on the open standards bandwagon which accelerated earlier this year through the ITU's ratification of a common 56Kbps modem standard.

And while the decision effectively dissolved the standards stoush between the rival 56Kbps modem camps of Rockwell/Lucent and 3Com/US Robotics, users may face new problems.

While the V.90 standard may have saved the modem industry from a proprietary slug fest, its promise of protecting users from confusion and potential performance hiccups may have been premature.

"ISPs will take quite a long time to upgrade," Stewart said. He added that ISPs are in the midst of evaluating their investment in V.90 with much depending on the degree and speed with which users and organisations in Australia embrace the new standard.

For users keen to download the V.90 flash upgrades onto to their x56 or Kflex modems, doing so could mean a return to world of 28.8 or 33.6Kbps if their ISP hasn't upgraded. The problem lies in the fact that most modems don't have sufficient memory to support either Flex or 56Kbps, and V.90 concurrently. An analyst from Dataquest suggested that users wait for their ISPs to upgrade to V.90 in order to avoid these problems.

Stewart is confident, however, that this issue poses no real obstacle to the proliferation of V.90 in Ausralia, citing company figures that estimate the total number of 56k modems sold in Australia to date at 150,000.

There were 1.8 million PCs sold in Australia last year, according to Stewart, with less than 25 per cent of these shipping with modems.

Stewart conceded that PC manufacturers are increasingly incorporating built-in networking devices such as modems into their machines, adding that this does not represent a dilemma for Sirius.

He said that the analog modem business in Australia has prospered from Telstra's reluctance to develop affordable ISDN services capable of supporting still embryonic cable modem technologies now floating to the surface.

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