U.S. Robotics Demos Minor Upgrade in V.92 Modems

Modem vendors may reach agreement on V.92 analog modem standards by year-end. But it might not provide the speed boost you're seeking, based on an early peek at Comdex here.

The most useful function offered by V.92 may be Modem On Hold, which is being implemented by U.S. Robotics and demonstrated here at Comdex. When you're trying to take calls and work on the Internet through one phone line, Modem On Hold alerts you to an incoming call and lets you put your Internet session on hold while you take it. Once you're finished talking, you can pick up the Internet session without the seemingly interminable delay of redialing into your service provider.

But Modem On Hold has a few gotchas. You will be able to put your Internet session on hold for only short periods of time, in the order of a few minutes. Your Internet service provider gets to determine the length of pause time. Secondly -- and this is true for nearly all of V.92's new features -- your service provider will need to upgrade its own modems.

A new Quick Connect feature should cut in half the time your modem takes for all the initial handshaking when you log on to your service provider. V.92 will reportedly allow modems to remember settings from previous sessions.

No Big Rush With Upgrade

But if you're looking to get significantly more speed out of your analog phone lines, you may be disappointed. V.92 is a refinement of V.90 that's designed to squeeze just a bit more bandwidth out of analog's 56K-bps (bits-per-second) limit.

The standard also allows for upstream and downstream speed balancing. Currently, when working at their maximum speed, V.90 modems send data to your PC at 56K bps, but you can only upload at 32K bps. That's fine for basic Web surfing, but if you try to upload big files such as digital photos or e-mail messages with attachments, you're wasting bandwidth. V.92 will let you speed your upload by sacrificing download performance.

Here's the good news: If you have a modern flash ROM upgradeable modem, you probably will not have to buy a new board to upgrade to V.92. U.S Robotics plans to offer free upgrade software for many of its V.90 models. Other vendors are likely to follow suit.

On the other hand, how quickly you can start using V.92 depends, once again, on your ISP. Most should be rolling out upgrades to their equipment throughout 2001.

Even without a service provider upgrade, upgrading your own modem brings small benefits. Overall refinements in the V.92 code may improve connections overall, say U.S. Robotics officials.

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