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56K Modem FAQ

This document was intended to give you the best possible modem connection with a K56Flex or V.90 modem. There are a lot of factors that can affect 56 Kbps analog modem connections. The steps we've outlined below should help you get the best possible connection from your equipment given your line and modem condition.

Step 1 Verify that your modem is running the latest firmware.
Step 2 Upgrade your modem firmware if necessary.
Step 3 Verify that your modem is using the proper drivers.
Step 4 Check your phone line quality.
Step 5 Add an init string to get a more stable connection.

Step 1 - Verify Modem Firmware

To verify your modem's firmware, you will need to use a "terminal program" to talk directly to your modem. Your system may already have a terminal program installed with the operating system, or you may need to download one. Below are instructions on how to use 2 popular terminal programs. You will need to familiarize yourself with one of these applications to perform a variety of tests.

Windows 95/98/ME/XP

You will need to determine which "Communications Port" or "Com Port" your modem resides on. To do this, Click on the "Start" button, select "Settings", then "Control Panel". Double-click on Modems. Click on the "Diagnostics" tab. You will see a list of Com Ports on the left, and installed components on the right. Note which Com Port your modem is installed on.

Windows 95/98/ME/XP comes with a terminal program called HyperTerminal. This application is not normally installed with the operating system, but may have been installed with Dial Up Networking. To launch HyperTerminal, click on the "Start" button, select "Programs", then "Accessories", then "HyperTerminal". If you do not see HyperTerminal, you will have to install it from your Windows 95/98/ME/XP installation CD-ROM (see notes)

  1. Double-click on "Hypertrm" or "Hypertrm.exe". A new window will appear called "Connection Description".
  2. Enter "test" into the text box and click "OK".
  3. A new window will appear called "Phone Number".  In the
    "Connect Using" box, click on the popup menu and select
    "Directly to com <com port>". Click "OK".
  4. A new window will appear called "Com <number> Properties".
    In the "Bits per second" text box, click on the pop up menu
    and select "57600" or "115200" (if supported).
    Click "OK".

You will now see a large "Terminal" window. You will type
commands in to this window to get information from your modem.

You may now skip to "Modem Commands"

Mac OS 7.x/8.x/9.x

Mac OS does not currently include a terminal program. You may have a program called Zterm that may have been included with some modem or fax software. To see if you have Zterm, click on the desktop, then from the "File" menu, select "Find". In the "Find File" text box, type "zterm" (no quotes) and click "Find". If no items are found, you will need to download a copy from here.

You will now end up with a folder call "Zterm 1.0.1". In this folder, double-click the "Zterm 1.0.1" icon while holding down the "Shift" key. Select the port your modem is connected to. You will now see a large "Terminal" window. You will type commands in to this window to get information from your modem.

Modem Commands

Modems have "AT Commands" that you can use to get configuration information from the modem, or even control the modems behavior. These command are not case sensitive, but it is recommended that you use upper or lower case exclusively (don't mix upper and lower case).
To find your modem's firmware revision, you will use the "ATI" command followed by a number.  Depending on the manufacturer, there may be up to 15 ATI commands, but generally the firmware revision number is contained in the "ATI3" or "ATI7" command. Type these commands into this Terminal Window and write down the result. Firmware revisions usually contain a "V" in the number. Modems using the 3Com/USR chipset may not contain this information, and you may need to download their "Wizard" program to determine if your modem needs to be upgraded.

Step 2 - Upgrade Your Modem

To upgrade your modem, you will need to visit the manufacturers website to download a "Wizard" or "Flasher". These are programs that will update the modem's firmware, the software that runs the modem. Included with most updates, are special modem drivers and update instructions that you will need to update and reinstall your modem. A common mistake is to update a modem without updating it's supporting driver. This causes a multitude of connection problems including slow connections or data throughput, and unstable connections. Using the manufacturers instructions, upgrade the modem as necessary.

Step 3 - Verify Modem Installation

During the upgrade process, you may have been instructed on how to update your modem driver, or it may have been
updated automatically for you. Depending on what Operating System you are using, there may be several ways to update your modem driver. Below is one example of how to update your modem driver. If you are sure that your modem driver was installed, you may skip to the next section "Check Phone Line Quality".

Windows 95/98/ME/XP

Windows uses an "INF" file to install the modem driver. You should have an updated "INF" file included with your modem upgrade. If you do not have one, you can generally download one from the modem manufacturers site.

To install the modem with a new inf file:

  1. Click the "Start" button and select "Settings" then "Control Panel".
  2. Double-click on "Add New Hardware". Click the "Next" button.
  3. Select "No" to the question : "Do you want Windows to search
    for your new hardware?" then click the "Next" button.
  4. Double-click on "Modem". Check the box titled "Don't detect my modem; I will select it from a list" then click the "Next" button.
  5. Click the "Have disk" button.
  6. Click the "Browse button"

    You will now need to tell Windows the location of the new inf file. If the inf file is not located on a floppy on A:
    drive, you will need to navigate the folder hierarchy to the location of the inf file. To do this you may need to select your hard drive from the "Drives" pop up menu. We'll use C: as an example drive.

    For example, if your new inf file is on your desktop and you do NOT have "Profiles" setup in your "Passwords" control panel, the location would be :

    C:\Windows\desktop\mdm<manufacturer name>.inf

    If your new inf file is on your desktop and you do have "Profiles" set, the location would be :

    C:\Windows\profiles\<username>\desktop\mdm<manufacturer name>.inf

    Please note that depending on how you installed Windows, the "Windows" folder may be named "Win95".

    Once navigating to the correct folder, you will see the available inf files (there may be more than one). Windows may try to choose the appropriate file based on the type of hardware you are installing.

  7. Click the "OK" button on the "Open" dialog box.
  8. Click the "OK" button on the "Install From Disk" dialog box. You will now be presented with a list of modem models. Select the appropriate model and click the "Next" button. Select the com port your modem resides on and click the "Next" button.
  9. Click the "Finish" button.

You will now need to select the new modem in your "Dial Up Networking" document. To do this, go to the "My Computer" window and double-click on the "Dial Up Networking" folder. Click ONCE on your dialup document called "NetGate" or "My Connection", then with the right mouse button, select "Properties". In the "Connect Using" box, select the new modem. If you desire to delete the old modem, you may do so via the "Modems" control panel.

Mac OS 7.5.5 or below

Older Mac OS's did not include any PPP or TCP/IP software. You may have one of a many incarnations of MacPPP or FreePPP. These dialers use a "Modem Init String" to interact with your modem. We highly recommend that you upgrade your communications software to the latest available from Apple's web site. These are the same components that ship with Mac OS 7.6 and above. If for some reason you need to use this older software, you will need to obtain the proper modem init string from the manufacturers website or from the list that normally accompanies FreePPP or MacPPP. Instructions on where to put your init string are listed in Step 5.

Mac OS 7.6 or above

Open Transport PPP (OP/PPP) ships with Mac OS 7.6 and later and is recommended for the best modem connectivity. If you are using MacPPP or FreePPP, you should remove it and install OT/PPP if it was not already installed. OT/PPP is the "PPP" control panel (NOT "ConfigPPP"). OT/PPP uses "Modem Scripts" or "CCL's" to communicate with your modem instead of "Init Strings". One or more "Modem Scripts" should have been included with you modem upgrade, if not you can download one from the modem manufacturers website. These scripts are often referenced as "ARA Scripts" or "CCL's" as these were originally designed to work with "Apple Remote Access".

To install a new modem script, simply drop it into the "modem scripts" folder in the "Extensions" folder. The "Extensions" folder is located in the "System Folder" on your hard drive. Next, open the "Modem" control panel and select this new modem script from the list of modems. This new script will tell your Mac how to communicate with your 56k modem.

Step 4 - Check Phone Line Quality

If you you are still not getting a fast connection, it could be a problem with the quality of your phone line, or you may just live in an area where 56k connections are not possible. If you see a connect speed of "38400", "57600", or "115200", you may not have installed your modem properly and will need to follow step 3.

Depending on the type of modem you have, the "AT Command" may be different to determine the integrity of your phone line. You will need to use a "Terminal Program" to talk to your modem (Instructions in step 1.). Most 56k modems use chipsets manufactured by Lucent, Rockwell, Texas Instruments, or 3Com/USR. If the instructions below do not work for your modem, you may need to contact the modem manufacturer for more info. "Soft" modems (these are "budget" modems that usually sell for half the price of a full featured modem) do not have the ability to assess line quality. The Lucent "LT Winmodem" is an exception, however the values returned is poorly documented.

Most terminal programs reset the modem, so you will probably need to establish a connection first before checking the line quality. Failure to do this will result in zero values or inaccurate data that will not represent your actual situation.

To establish a connection, type:

        ATDT <number>

where <number> is the phone number you dial to access the Internet. You will be prompted for a login upon connecting, you will want to wait a few seconds and then enter three plus signs +++ but do NOT hit the Enter key. This will signal the modem to disconnect the call, you can now check your line quality.

K56Flex Modems (Lucent/Rockwell) except LT Winmodem

In your "Terminal Program", type in AT&V1 followed by Return.

You will be presented with one of the following: (the thing to note is the Line QUALITY value)

TERMINATION REASON LAST TX data rate HIGHEST TX data rate LAST RX data rate HIGHEST RX data rate Error correction PROTOCOL
Data COMPRESSION Line QUALITY
Receive LEVEL
Highest SPX Receive State
Highest SPX Transmit Rate
EQM Sum Value
RBS Pattern detected Data Rate Dropped in kbps
Digital Pad Detected

LOCAL REQUEST
24000 BPS
24000 BPS
26400 BPS
26400 BPS

LAPM
V42Bis
031 < This is too high
016

67

67
00A0
3F

08
None

If you are seeing a Line QUALITY above the value of 25, then 56K connections are almost impossible. There is nothing the modem can do about this condition.  All you can do is contact your phone company and see if they can improve your connection quality.

X2 Modems (3Com/USR)

In your "Terminal Program" type in ATI11 followed by Return.

USRobotics Courier V.Everything Link Diagnostics...

Modulation
Carrier Freq. (Hz) Symbol Rate
Trellis Code
Nonlinear Encoding Precoding
Shaping
Preemphasis Index Recv/Xmit Level (dBm)
SNR   ( dB )
Near Echo Loss  ( dB )
Far Echo Loss   ( dB ) Roundtrip Delay (msec)
Timing Offset   ( ppm) Carrier Offset  ( PPM) RX Upshifts RX Downshifts TX Speedshifts V.90 Status

V.90/V.34+
NONE/1920
8000/3200
NONE/16S4D
NONE/OFF
NONE/OFF
OFF/ON
NONE/9

76.3/16.8
46.3  < this is good
10.1
15

3050
144
0
0
0
0
uu,5,12N,12.3,7,0N,0,45.7,12.2

You will be presented with one of the following: (the thing to note is the "SNR" or Signal to Noise Ratio)
 
If you are seeing a Signal to Noise Ratio below the value of 25, then 56K connections are almost impossible. There is nothing the modem can do about this condition.  All you can do is contact your phone company and see if they can improve your connection quality.

LT Winmodem

In your "Terminal Program" type in ATI11 followed by Return.

Last Connection Initial Transmit Carrier Rate
Initial Receive Carrier Rate
Final Transmit Carrier Rate
Final Receive Carrier Rate
Protocol Negotiation Result
Data Compression Result
Estimated Noise Level
Receive Signal Power Level (dBm)
Transmit Signal Power Level (dBm)
Round Trip Delay (msec)
Press any key to continue; ESC to quit.
Near Echo Level (dBm)
Far Echo Level (dBm)
Transmit Frame Count
Transmit Frame Error Count
Receive Frame Count
Receive Frame Error Count
Retrain by Local Modem
Retrain by Remote Modem
Call Termination Cause
RobbedBit Signaling Digital Loss (dB)
Remote Server ID 4342C3

56k

28000

50000

28000

50000

LAPM

V42bis
152

25

16

4

NA

NA
3

0

0
0

0

0

0

00
6
NA

We're concerned with "Estimated Noise Level" here. This number is affected by the downstream data rate, so there is no "good" number to look for, Higher numbers are bad. If you are having trouble getting a 56K connection, contact your phone company and see if they can improve your connection quality.

Step 5 - Add an init string to your modem's configuration

If you've made it this far, you will probably not be able to make a 56k connection, the best you can hope for is a slower but more stable connection. Adding init strings is an advanced procedure, and knowledge of how modems work and how they are affected by these init strings is helpful.

If you modem came with a manual that contains "AT commands", this will be helpful in whipping up a recipe. There are many sites on the Internet that document some known init strings that can be used. You will want to test your these init strings and your connections via a terminal program prior to modifying your system modem configuration.

Windows 95/98/ME/XP and Mac's using Mac PPP or Free PPP will accept init strings, if your Mac uses OT/PPP, you will want to download and install the latest ARA Script for your modem from the modem manufacturer's website as detailed in Step 3 under MacOS 7.6. Advanced users could use a program like BB Edit to modify an ARA script, but this is only necessary in extreme cases.

The first step will be to locate an init string by utilizing the resources on the Internet, like the modem manufacturers support area of their website, and/or possibly on of the links below. You are generally looking for a string that forces a specific 56k standard (like K56Flex instead of V.90), force a V.34 connection disabling the use of 56k speeds altogether (V.34 refers to speeds 33.6 and below), or forces the modem to connect at a specific slower speed (maybe 38000 for example if connections at that speed appear more stable. Some options include the disabling of fast retrains, or forcing the modem to ignore the V.8bis tone (the initial "burp" tone you hear when you dial a 56k modem pool). You can trick the modem to ignore the first few seconds of the call by adding commas after the phone number. Depending on the modem, a comma represents a 2 second delay before listening to the modem on the other end of the line. Experiment using one to four commas, this is most helpful for older non56k modems that do not understand the V.8bis tone.

Launch your terminal program, and enter the init string making sure to enter AT before the init string (if the string does not already contain AT). If you receive the response "OK" you are ready to test your connection. If you received "ERROR" the init string you selected is invalid for that type of modem, or you made a typo.

To test your connection, type:

ATDT <number>

where <number> is the phone number you dial to access the Internet You will want to pay particular attention to the negotiation of the modems (the sounds) to see if the modem connects easily, or has to continually retrain to establish a connection. Once you determine an init string that works for you, you will want to enter it into your dialup software.

Windows 95/98/ME/XP
 
Go to the "My Computer" window and double-click the "Dial Up Networking" folder. Click once on your appropriate dialup document and access the "Properties" by clicking on the file menu of the surrounding window, or by clicking on the document with the right mouse button. Click the "Configure" button near the modem icon. Click the "Connection" tab, and then the "Advanced" button. Enter your modem init string in the "Extra Settings" box. Preceding the init string with AT is optional.

Mac OS using MacPPP or FreePPP
 
Launch the "Config PPP" control panel and click on the "Config" button. In the text box labeled "Modem Init", enter your init string ensuring that the string starts with AT as described above. Click the "Done" button. You should now be able to connect by clicking the "Open" button. If this button is Gray, you init string is not valid, the PPP extension is not installed, or PPP is not selected in your MacTCP or TCP/IP control panel.

Useful Links to Modem Web Sites

A good site for LT Winmodems, but has plenty of information on other  modems.
http://modemsite.com/56k/

Mostly covers V.90 modems and has information on how the telephone  network works.
http://www.v90.com/

The official 56K Modem Web Site ( Has links to modem manufacturer's  sites )
http://www.k56.com/

Modem Central ( Has links to sites with init strings )
http://www.56k.com/

The Unofficial PortMaster Repository (Has INIT strings to use as last resort)
http://pmr.infinet.net/modems/