The No Hype 56k Modem Page

According to the hype, v.90 (a.k.a. 56k) modems are the greatest thing since Zip drives. In some respects, they are. They're ideal for surfing the World Wide Web, but perhaps less than ideal for other uses.

The problem begins with competing standards. There were two independent and mutually exclusive 56k protocols: one (X2) from US Robotics, the other (K56flex) from Lucent, Rockwell and others. X2 modems and K56flex modems can't talk to each other faster than 33.6Kbps - yet. With the new v.90 standard finalized and most 56k modems upgradable, a better day is coming.

Don't even think about buying either type of 56k modem until you know which protocol your ISP supports. If possible, hold out until your ISP supports the v.90 standard. If you can't wait, make sure you buy a modem that can be readily upgraded to v.90 (you want a software upgradable modem, one that uses flash ROM). maintains a list of companies offering free upgrades to the final standard.

And be sure to consider the new alternatives: cable modems, various types of DSL (digital subscriber line), even satellite dish and radio wave. Although not available in all areas, these may be a viable option for you.


  1. Not all phone lines will support 56k modems.
  2. FCC restrictions may limit you to 53Kbps.
  3. Real world connection speeds are under 56k (but often better than 33.6).
  4. 56k speed is for downloads only; uploads are limited to 33.6Kbps.
  5. Upload speed is inversely proportional to download speed.
  6. 56k modems don't talk to each other at 56k.
  7. 56k may be impractical for remote access.
  8. Latency - why some aspects of 56k are no faster than with your current modem.
  9. Data buffering and compression - two more factors to slow things down.
  10. Serial port speed makes a difference.
  11. What about faster internet connections?
  12. Good things about 56k modems.
  13. Conclusions.

Other 56k Modem Information

More resources


  • Setting up a personal firewall, Michel Munger, iBasics, 2001.07.11. Protecting your Mac from snoops and vandals on the Internet.
  • DSL Diary, Dan Knight, No Hype 56k Modem Page, 2001.07.09. Initial impressions of DSL service and SMC Barrier router.


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