V.90 FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

The introduction of fast, new 56K modems last year generated a lot of excitement and press because they promised low-cost, high-speed Internet access at a fraction of the cost of ISDN access. But because two different and incompatible technologies, x2 and K56flex, were initially introduced — and the true speeds of 56K modems are not always what they are advertised to be, speed-hungry Internet users were left with many questions. And though a 56K standard, called V.90, has been reached (which Access Internet has already begun to support), we realize that many of our members still have questions about high-speed modems and their Access Internet connection. We hope to answer some of them here.

What are the benefits of a 56K modem?

Speed is the primary benefit. Theoretically, you can access the Internet at twice the speed of your old 28.8K modem. A second benefit is the cost of 56K modems: They cost about as much as 28.8K modems did a year or so ago. And using ISDN or similar data-transmission speeds is more costly. Another benefit is the availability of 56K modem access — Access Internet currently offers x2 Internet access in cities all over the South Bay. Other high-speed technologies such as ISDN and xDSL simply aren't available in many places.

Is a V.90 modem the same as a 56K modem?

No. Though all V.90 modems are 56K modems, not all 56K modems are V.90 modems. A V.90 modem is a 56K modem based on international standards. 56K modems other than V.90 do not conform to the standard and the different technologies used by them are incompatible.

What is V.90?

On February 6, 1998, an international agreement was finally reached which established a single 56K modem standard called "V.90" (vee-dot-ninety). This ended a full year during which there was no standard and two fully incompatible modem technologies — one, x2, promoted by 3Com/USR, the other, K56flex, by Lucent/Rockwell — were both being touted as the best product for 56k dial-up access. While these other modem types could not communicate with each other at high speed, all V.90 modems will be able to. Once the standard is fully implemented, ISPs (like Access Internet) will no longer need to support two modem technologies and our members will be able to purchase a 56K modem from any manufacturer and use it on any 56K dial-up number.

V.90, x2 or K56flex — what's the difference?

56K technology
Generic name for any technology that allows modems to download (receive) information from the Internet, over regular analog phone lines, at speeds up to 56 Kbps (depending on government regulations and phone line conditions)

x2 technology
Proprietary version of 56K technology developed by 3Com/U.S. Robotics

K56flex technology
Proprietary version of 56K technology developed by Rockwell and Lucent

International standard for 56K technology, to be used by all modem manufacturers

Do I have V.90 in my area?

On June 3, 1998, Access Internet rolled-out dial-up access numbers utilizing the new V.90 standard. To check for a local V.90 access number in your area, please visit our POP Phone Number Locator.

Access Internet will continue to add additional V.90 access numbers throughout the Bay Area over the next several months, so check back often.

I want to buy the best, fastest modem — isn't that one of the new V.90 modems?

Possibly. Access Internet already supports V.90 standard modems in cities all over the South Bay. If you live in an area where one of these numbers is local for you, then a V.90 modem is your best choice. But you must check to see if one of these numbers is available for you by using our POP Phone Number Locator. If V.90 is not yet available in your area, then you should start with one of the non-standard 56K modems and upgrade later when Access Internet is able to support it in your area (upgrades are free from most modem manufacturers).

Does my modem support V.90?

While not all modems are ready to accept a V.90 connection, most newer modems can be upgraded via the modem manufactures home page. To see if your modem is ready for V.90, please check our V.90 upgrade page.

How can I upgrade my modem to V.90?

If you have not already done so, please visit our V.90 upgrade page for information on your brand of modem.

Does my phone line support 56K?

You need to find out if your phone line is capable of supporting 56K technology. Testing initiative have determined that a vast majority of phone lines in North America can support 56K. Check your line now using our LineTest tool.

Why I may not get 56k?

We have listed a few reasons why you may not get a 56k connection.

I've had problems connecting at a true 28.8K with my current modem. Will I achieve a "true" 56K connection with V.90 or any of the other 56K modems?

Unfortunately, no. The FCC capped certain types of data-transmission rates at 53K, which affects ALL 56K and V.90 modems. More importantly, the AVERAGE connection rate of 56K modems is only in the mid-40K range; most independent testing puts it between 42K and 46K. So, clearly 56K is not a guaranteed connection rate. Rather, it is a maximum speed that you'll hope to approach while online.

Are there any more cons to 56K or V.90 modems?

A couple. You can't upload data with your 56K or V.90 modem (your Web page, email, etc.) faster than 33.6K. Also, 56K and V.90 won't work where there are digital signal conversions within a link (as when communicating between the U.S. and Europe).

Is there any additional information about V.90 and 56K?

V90.com offers a comprehensive look at the new 56K modem standard and its issues.

This NetBits article offers a good overview of the 56K issues.

Our 56K Test Results and Reviews page links to lots of helpful information on specific modems as well as reviews of the technologies.