Consumers should use the new 56 kilobits per second modem technology despite the difficulty in attaining full speed and the absence of an industry standard, a US Robotics (USR) director says. Igor Best-Devereux, USR director of Asia operations, believed there was a strong demand for speeds above the former maximum of 33.6 kbps. Tested speeds in Hong Kong using USR's x2 modems had registered 48-53 kbps on a live-line connection, according to Alex Kuan, USR network systems engineer. The attainable speed would rely on line quality, but the higher threshold eventually would predominate, Mr Best-Devereux said. 'I think we will find that performance will begin to stabilise and increase over the next year or so . . . the 56k standard will certainly perform far better than v.34.' USR and Rockwell are the two main camps offering high-speed modems. However, the two firms' equipment cannot interconnect at that speed, meaning consumers must buy the brand used by their on-line providers. A universal modem protocol will be determined by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) by the end of the year. The standard would be followed by all modem manufacturers to enable interconnectivity. 'The best technology is going to be the technology our company is using,' Mr Best-Devereux said. 'We have the advantage of DSP (digital signal processor) technology' as opposed to the chip set used in Rockwell's K56flex modems, he said. USR equipment had a flexible platform that was readily upgradable, needing only one software download, while K56flex equipment required hardware upgrades, Mr Best-Devereux said. According to USR, about 200 ISPs worldwide use x2 modems, with 20 of them in use in Hong Kong.