USB says new specification to double transfer speed in the works

USB-IF says data transfer rates will double to 10Gbps, but it will still trail Intel's Thunderbolt

PCs and mobile devices connected to peripherals via USB ports will in the future be able to transfer data at twice the speed possible today.

A new specification that doubles the data transfer over USB to 10Gbps (bits per second) is in the works, said the USB Implementers Forum, a standards-setting organization that defines specifications for the data transfer technology. The announcement was made at the Intel Developer Forum being held in Beijing.

The speed improvement means users will be able to move gigabytes of data between PCs and peripherals such as portable hard drives in a matter of seconds. That is especially useful when transferring large high-resolution video files.

The new specification is an improvement over the existing USB 3.0, which can transfer data at 5Gbps. Most PCs today ship with USB 3.0 ports, while smartphones and tablets have micro-USB ports based on the older and slower 2.0 specification. Mobile devices will get faster signalling rates with micro-USB 3.0 ports in the future.

The speed increase comes on the heels of Intel's announcement this week that it is doubling the speed of Thunderbolt, an interconnect based on PCI-Express and DisplayPort that is viewed as a faster alternative to USB. By the end of the year, Thunderbolt will boast data transfer rates of 20Gbps, but USB 3.0 has an advantage of wider adoption and backing of some top hardware makers including Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Microsoft and Intel. Intel views USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt as complementary technologies.

USB-IF did not say when the new specification would be approved and released.

Peripherals based on the new standard will be able to plug into existing USB 3.0 ports. However, new cables will be needed to handle the faster speeds.

The last major update to the USB 3.0 specification in July involved the connector cables being able to deliver up to 100 watts of power, which could charge mobile device batteries faster and enable televisions to be powered via a USB port.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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