Keep On Dialing On

By William C. Gillis

Every day, thousands of businesses dial up to access the Internet. Some businesses stay with dial-up because broadband is too expensive, while in many areas broadband service simply isn’t available.

A new dial-up standard called V.92, ratified by the International Telecommunications Union last November, offers faster connection and upload speeds, as well as a ‘call waiting’ feature that allows users to take an incoming call while connected to the Internet. Perhaps most importantly, V.92 offers quicker download speeds – as much as 25 percent faster than the current standard, V.90.

For V.92 to work, ISPs must support it – but that’s not happening yet. Many ISPs, including EarthLink, Cable and Wireless, and WorldCom’s UUNET, have no immediate plans to support the standard. Sprint and AT&T do plan to implement V.92, but it’s unclear when they will actually be able to offer it. Only one ISP, Andover, Mass.-based NaviPath, has fully upgraded its network to support V.92 at this time.

Daryl Schoolar, an analyst with Cahners In-Stat Group, says that many ISPs are reluctant to offer V.92 because of the costs and labor associated with upgrading their networks. ‘For an ISP like NaviPath, which has a homogeneous network, the upgrade is fairly easy,’ Schoolar says. ‘Some of the other carriers are not homogeneous, and deal with different vendors, so that makes it a bit more complicated for them.’

According to Steve Dougherty, director of systems vendor management with EarthLink, the ISP is taking a wait-and-see approach. ‘We’re a very big ISP with outsourced networks along with networks we own,’ Dougherty says. ‘[Upgrading] is very labor intensive. It would be a big project for us.’

AT&T plans to introduce the new standard but has not yet set a timetable for the rollout, according to Steve Piancentino, IP product management director. Piancentino says that V.92’s features, especially the faster download time, make it a great service for their dial-up customers. ‘We’re excited about it because we can improve the dial-up experience for our customers, and it doesn’t require a significant investment on our part,’ he says. ‘We expect there’s a lot of interest on the business side, especially folks working from home with single lines.’

Cahners In-Stat’s Schoolar believes that ISPs may be underestimating the demand for V.92. ‘I think the ISPs thought that everyone would have broadband by now, so they ignored the dial-up market,’ he says. ‘There are some really good features that some of the ISPs are overlooking. It’s a good stop-gap measure that gives the ISPs competitiveness in the market, especially while broadband is taking so long to roll out.’

Schoolar adds that the new standard has backwards compatibility – in other words, your old V.90 modem will work whether you’re dialing into a V.92 network or not.

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.
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