Suppliers of 56Kbps modem chips have rendered the standard meaningless after failing to agree on an interoperability testing platform despite a committee meeting in Geneva approving the draft V.pcm, which bridges the competing technologies X2 and K56Flex.
After almost a year of industry in-fighting, the main players decided in December 1997 to call a truce and agree a standard with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to work on a V.pcm standard. A draft principle was agreed last week.
3Com, which last year acquired US Robotics, developer of the X2 technology, announced it would ship products that adhere to the standard before the end of this quarter. However, although 3Com and Lucent have agreed to test the interoperability of their V.pcm standards, there is still no agreement between the two companies and Rockwell which, like Lucent, manufactures K56Flex chips.
All three major manufacturers of modem chips admitted this will mean that initial standard V.pcm modems will not be interoperable. Observers said it appears they are no more standard than current x2 or K56Flex modems so that all will eventually need a software upgrade to be able to work together.
A representative at Lucent conceded there was a problem. 'A consumer has to be careful,' he said. 'If it's labelled V.pcm, that doesn't mean it's interoperable.'
He added that the problems are caused by the enormous market demand for a standard product, which is putting pressure on vendors to ship products fast.
Moiz Begu-wala, VP and general manager of personal communications at Rockwell, said the company had already finalised its V.pcm code and rolled it out to OEMs. 'We expect to see V.pcm products based on Rockwell chips out in weeks,' he said.
But he admitted he could only guarantee that the systems would interoperate with other modems also built with Rockwell chips.
Beguwala blamed 3Com for the lack of interoperability. '3Com has essentially taken the path where it wants to bring out a product as soon as possible without checking interoperability,' he said.
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