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Modems to get one last upgrade before death by DSL

v.92 boosts upload speeds - but not by very much

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The analog modem has been given a reprieve from extinction at the hands of DSL, courtesy of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

The Geneva-based telecoms standards body has ratified a new modem standard, v.92, that promises to boost upload speeds by 40 per cent. The first products are due in Q4.

Sounds good, but in fact, it's not that hot. Current 56Kbps modems upload at around 33.6Kbps, on a very good line. The new standard simply takes that to just over 47Kbps, hardly ISDN speed, let alone DSL. And even the ITU admits that speed is only achieved on "the best connections". How many of us have those?

Download speeds remain the same: a theoretical 56Kbps, but a more practical 47Kbps on a decent line.

This minor increase in upload speed was inflated by the ITU thus: "[It] will further improve the Internet users experience by significantly reducing connect times and providing improved access to new Internet services."

John Magill, chairman of the ITU working party said the testing process should be begin in the next few weeks. "I would expect products to start appearing sometime in Q4," he said.

The new standard does appear to reduce the time it takes for modems to handshake, which should allow users to log on to the Net more quickly. It also allows modems to cope with call waiting signals so that single-line owners can elect to answer voice calls and still stay connected to the Net.

More importantly, though, the group behind the v.92 standard announced a new modem data compression standard, v.44, which it reckons will improve data throughput rates from the current 150-200Kbps to 300Kbps. Not quite DSL, it's true, but it doesn't require changes to you home phone line.

Maybe, but it's hard to see surfers willing to pay out for a slightly faster analog modem when DSL seems so damn close. That said, if the way BT is rolling out that technology in the UK, there may yet be room in the market for a final analog modem upgrade.

Additional reporting by Lucy Sherriff®

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