Frisky business. (Hayes Microcomputer Products introduces 28,000-bps modem; includes additional information about Radish Communication's VoiceView protocol) (Online) (Column)
by Robert Bixby
A few weeks ago, I received notice that Hayes Microcomputer Products was marketing a 28,800-bps V.Fast Class (also called V.FC) modem for $579 (list price). "ITU-T (the international board that approves telecommunications standards) hasn't approved V.Fast yet," I thought. "Who would buy technology that might be nonstandard?"
When I called Hayes to ask that question, Joe Fuller, manager of business development, told me that Hayes has been working for some time on what will be the next standard in telecommunications: V.34 (also known as V.Fast). The standard was supposed to be approved in 1992 and then in 1993, but it still hasn't been approved as this goes to press (approval is expected in the second half of this year). Meanwhile, the market has been demanding a faster standard than the current 14,400 bps. High speed is important for remote LAN access, sending large files (like graphics and desktop publishing files), and other large-scale data transfers. Some modem manufacturers have responded with what is known as V.32terbo (this is a bit of a pun, since in French, bis, as in V.32bis, means "second" and ter means "third"). This is a proprietary 19,200-bps technology that is expected to fade away in the face of the V.34 standard.
Also in response to this market pressure, Hayes and Rockwell developed their own V.Fast Class standard because, according to Fuller, "we have a good handle on what the standard will look like." The basics are already in place: speed, modulation scheme and use of multidimensional trellis coding, and lineprobing techniques for adjusting the modem signal to the phone line signal quality. Hayes and Rockwell and 125 other modem manufacturers (all of whom use the Rockwell chip set in their modems) lined up to make the V.FC available. All of the modems being released with this new standard also feature upgradability, so when the standard is eventually in place, you'll be able to overcome V.FC's incompatibilities with some sort of upgrade--probably in the form of software or a new chip to insert on the modem board. You won't have to buy a whole new modem.
The effort necessary to upgrade will depend on the divergence of the V.FC and the V.34 standards, but many manufacturers claim that the upgrade will cost no more than $50. Hayes has guaranteed that its upgrade will be "less than $100."
You might recall that modern modems have built-in compression, which multiplies their stated bps ratings. For most modems the V.42bis compression standard provides 4 : 1 data compression, so a 28,800-bps modem can actually transmit 115,200 bps. But by taking advantage of special options in the V.42bis compression, V.FC Hayes modems interacting with other V.FC Hayes modems can transmit up to 230,400 bps, for about 8 : 1 compression (that's about 23K per second).
Once the V.34 standard is in place, if you buy a modem that uses a Rockwell V.34 chip set, that modem will be backward compatible with a V.FC modem. In other words, you'll be able to exchange data at 28,800 bps with either a V.34 or a V.FC modem.
Now for my cool report. The coolest thing I've heard about this month in telecommunications involves a Radish.
Have you ever been talking to someone on the phone and suddenly needed to send him or her a fax? It happens often enough to me--usually when I'm talking to a person who wants to tell me something confidential but can't because we don't have a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). We hang up. A few minutes later, the NDA comes out of the fax machine down the hall. I sign it and fax it back. A short while later, the phone rings, and our conversation continues.
You might not deal with industry secrets, but you might be a doctor who needs a release to send a patient's records to a hospital, or you might be contracting for a service from a company that needs your signature on a paper before it can deliver.
Radish Communications Systems has come up with something that eliminates the awkwardness of voice and data communication. If both you and the person you are speaking with on the phone have a modem with Radish's VoiceView protocol, you can send a fax (or data) over the same connects in series between the phone and the wall jack. According to Jackie McDonald at Radish, VoiceView works with analog and digital phones. (Digital and hybrid systems require a special interface to the handset of the phone.) A serial connection links the ViewBridge to the PC. To switch between speech and data, you click on a button on your computer screen.
U.S. Robotics, Hayes, and Intel have all licensed the technology. According to Radish, a modem using VoiceView may be available in the second half of 1994.