Much faster USB transfer speeds in the works

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 10 gbps (gigabits 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 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 5 gbps. 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 are expected to get faster signalling rates with micro-USB 3.0 ports.

Arrival date uncertain

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 20 gbps, but USB 3.0 has an advantage of wider adoption and backing of some top hardware makers including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Microsoft. 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.

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