January 26, 2001, 3:44 PM — AFTER BREAKING AWAY from enterprise vendor 3Com last year, U.S. Robotics is coming out with a line of consumer gear suitable for home offices.
This week at the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, the company will unveil prototypes of broadband access equipment as well as home wireless networking equipment designed to make networking in home offices simpler.
The company will show an ADSL (asymmetric DSL) modem and a cable modem that are each capable of multimegabit downloads. The company is showing beta versions of the equipment and has not yet set prices for the boxes, said Christine Pomeroy, U.S. Robotics' vice president of marketing.
The ADSL modem meets the standards known as G.Lite and G.DMT, and are built with chips made by Globespan. The chip choice makes the modems compatible with a range of service provider DSL equipment, including DSL access multiplexers made by Cisco. This compatibility is key because it will enable customers to buy and install their own DSL modems, making the DSL installation process less expensive and less reliant on service calls from carriers.
U.S. Robotics is offering the DSL modems as two stand-alone units, one that connects to PCs via a universal serial bus port and one that connects via an Ethernet port.
The customer-site cable modem is compliant with the cable modem standard known as DOCIS (data-over-cable-interface specification), again a key factor in determining interoperability with service provider equipment. The cable modem is based on Broadcom chips.
In addition, U.S. Robotics will announce that this spring it will ship wireless equipment that makes it simpler and less expensive to tie together PCs in a home office. The wireless offerings include a PC card, a PCI card, and a device known as a wireless access point.
Customers networking three or fewer PCs need not buy the access point, which is essentially a wireless hub. Instead, one of the PCs acts as an access point and the devices communicate via the antennas in each card. Customers with more than three PCs to network would buy an access point.
U.S. Robotics Wireless PC costs $149 and Wireless PCI costs $189. Wireless PCI is a Wireless PC plus an adapter. U.S. Robotics Wireless Access Point costs $399. All are available now.
U.S. Robotics is aiming for consumers with these products, but they are also suitable for small offices. They are designed for simplicity and come with documentation to make them easier to install, Pomeroy said.