In the race to higher modem speeds, US Robotics Corp’s x2 56kbps protocol has been doing battle since last October with the K56Flex technology developed by Lucent Technologies Inc and Rockwell Semiconductor Systems Inc. A standard has yet to be agreed upon by the International Telecommunications Union, leaving modem makers and consumers to bet on which faction will win out. Some manufacturers, like Hayes Microcomputer Products Inc, have been shipping modems based on both protocols and major US internet service providers have likewise been testing both. USR’s x2 picked up some significant support on Thursday, however, with the announcement that IBM Corp’s Global Services unit is implementing the technology at over 500 locations in the US and one in Japan, the largest single deployment by an ISP to date. IBM says a software upgrade will enable its customers to have nearly immediate use of the new service. In an effort US Robotics also announced this week its x2 delivers initiative for consumers, businesses and ISPs which guarantees that its 56kbps products will be upgraded free of charge to the standard the ITU adopts in 1998. The new deal also offers a month’s free internet access with one of the 350 ISPs that are currently offering x2 service and 30-day guaranteed return policy. Hayes had previously guaranteed an upgrade to the ITU standard on its K56Flex modems. The upgrade pledge by USR puts meat on the bones of statements made by chief Casey Cowell that if the eventual 56kbps standard is something different than x2 their [consumers] initial investment will be protected because we will take them to the standard. US Robotics first showed signs of accommodating modem technology other than its own after 3Com Corp announced it plans to acquire the Skokie, Illinois-based company earlier this year (CI No 3,110). 3Com is thought to have a more pragmatic approach to standards issue.