USB will soon catch up to Thunderbolt with 10Gbps speeds

SuperSpeed USB 3.1 specification means products should be in full swing by 2015

After five years, the ubiquitous SuperSpeed Universal Serial Bus (USB) communications protocol got a huge upgrade this week with a new specification that more than doubles its speed.

This latest release of the specification, version 3.1, is available now for download by developers from the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) website.

SuperSpeed USB 3.1 jumps I/O throughput (on paper) from 4.8Gbps (in USB 3.0) to 10 Gbps, bringing it on par with another specification Intel developed, Thunderbolt.

USB 3.0
The Super-Speed USB logo

The new spec is fully backward compatible with SuperSpeed USB 3.0 connectors and cables, software stacks and device class protocols, as well as with existing 5Gbps hubs and devices and USB 2.0 products.

Earlier this year, Intel announced that both USB SuperSpeed and its Thunderbolt specifications would double data transfer speeds, opening up peripheral pipes to greater throughput.

Separately, the first USB Power Delivery specification -- it would boost from 10 watts to 100 watts the power across Power Delivery-certified USB cables -- is also being tested by equipment developers.

"The intention being that we want to extend the USB charging benefits that phones get today to notebook computers and higher power peripherals," an Intel spokesman said via email to Computerworld.

Both the SuperSpeed 3.1 and the USB Power Delivery specification initiatives are in the implementation enabling phase where the functional components for each are being developed and component suppliers are working with platform and peripheral manufacturers, the spokesman said.

"While some products sporting these latest technologies are potentially going to reach the market next year, 2015 is when both will likely gain a more measurable impact," he added.

Intel could not say which peripheral suppliers are actually developing products using the USB 3.1 specification. The spokesman said Intel has seen "very strong interest," with more than 100 companies involved in the spec development and review process.

"At the initiative level, we are working diligently toward having the associated certification process in place for products that could ship in late 2014," he said.

Developers can learn technical details during three developer conferences currently being planned:

  • USB 3.1 Developers Day US - August 21, 2013 in Hillsboro, Ore.
  • USB 3.1 Developers Days Europe - October 1-2, 2013 in Dublin, Ireland
  • And the USB 3.1 Developers Days Asia - a two-day conference scheduled for early December (details not yet announced).

"We recognize this advancement in USB technology is an important development for our customers," said Tom Bonola, CTO for Hewlett-Packard's Business PC Solutions Group. "The USB 3.1 Specification enables us to meet the growing needs of our customers for faster data transfer while maintaining backwards compatibility with existing devices."

This article, USB will soon catch up to Thunderbolt with 10Gbps speeds, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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