Double-speed modem to allay Website gripes

Net surfers may soon be able to access and download Web pages at nearly twice the current speed using conventional phone lines, allowing consumers to access quickly vastly enhanced content, sound and graphics on commercial Websites.

Modem manufacturer US Robotics is beginning field tests for its double-speed modem with online service provider AOL in a number of US cities.

US Robotics x2 modem technology will double the rate of downloading data from 28.8 to 56kbps (kilobits per second), “providing consumers with a simple, reliable and highly affordable alternative to installing an ISDN connection”, says the company.

The high cost of ISDN connections in the UK and other countries has limited the market for Internet access for most home users to conventional copper domestic phone lines.

This has created a bandwidth “bottleneck”, restricting the ability of surfers to download quickly and run sophisticated multimedia applications on the Net.

These time delays and crashes when downloading data-intensive Websites is cited in many surveys as a key gripe among Internet users without access to business grade ISDN lines.

Once tests are completed, AOL will roll out double-speed access to remaining metropolitan cities in the US, followed soon afterwards by major cities in Europe and the Far East.

Ajaz Ahmed, managing partner at new media consultancy AKQA, says the prospects of doubling download and access speed for the bulk of the UK’s Net surfers could transform the creative potential of commercial Websites.

But he warns that Web designers should be wary of imposing state-of-the-art applications on sites before widescale consumer adoption of new modem technology.

“The question is whether the pace of development in hardware and software will be met by the rate of consumer uptake,” he says.

“It’s true already that sometimes the only people who can see Web pages quickly and in their full glory are the people designing them. Lots of sites are tedious, because they de-mand too much download time.”

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