Three reasons to buy broadband

Vendors roll out compelling broadband apps at CES

LAS VEGAS - For the majority of U.S. online households, broadband still fails to deliver enough bang for the buck. Of the 76.5% who still used dial-up last year, 42% said they didn't need it and 32% said broadband was too expensive, according to a recent In-Stat/MDR report.

Service providers know to spur demand they must offer compelling applications on top of the connection. With the exception of some home-network packages, such offerings haven't yet materialized. Although, products that require a broadband connection are beginning to crop up. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, three offerings were on display.

D-Link debuted its i2eye DVC-1000 VideoPhone, a broadband appliance that delivers IP videoconferencing via TV. The device sits on top of a TV and features an adjustable tilt/focus camera lens and integrated microphone. You place calls via the interface you control with a remote. To speak, you can use an analog phone plugged into the back of the box, or talk directly into the built-in speaker.

In a demonstration, D-Link streamed video between its show booth and the company's Irvine, Calif., conference room over a 225K-bit/sec connection. Video quality was good at 24 frames per second. The device requires a minimum 96K-bit/sec connection. The i2eye costs $300 each or $500 for a pair, and is available this month. D-Link says it plans to launch a small business version later this year.

Motorola unveiled a broad-reaching broadband strategy at the show, including a line of wireless cable modem gateways and 802.11b access points, adapters and routers. In a joint venture with Xanboo, Motorola also is developing a line of Internet home control and remote monitoring devices. Products will include a home gateway, camera, sensors and motion detectors. They use 802.11b wireless and require a minimum 56K-bit/sec bilateral broadband connection. The home control equipment is expected to ship this spring.

Network executives looking to reduce teleworkers' phone costs might consider Vonage DigitalVoice. The voice-over-IP service provides unlimited national calling for $39.99 per month, or 500 minutes for $19.99 per month. Vonage's VoIP network is based on Session Initiation Protocol and requires a minimum 90K-bit/sec bilateral connection.

The service includes a phone adapter box (Cisco's ATA 186) that plugs into an analog phone and broadband router. One option is to plug the box into a cordless phone base station to distribute the service to up to six handset extensions.

DigitalVoice includes voice mail, call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID, and three-way calling. Users can add and subtract features, manage the account, and retrieve voice mail via the Vonage Web site. You also can select an area code that matches that of the main office.

Vonage also offers an unlimited small business package for $69 per month, or 1,500 minutes for $39.99. Future plans include offering fax service, and a deal with local exchange carriers to offer Digital Voice as a premium service to broadband customers is in the works.

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Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.