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USB-C to hit 80Gbps under updated USB4 v. 2.0 spec

You’re going to need new cables and learn to recognize revised logos

The USB Promoter Group has announced version 2.0 of the USB4 spec and promises it can carry data at 80Gbps.

The Group’s announcement [PDF] of the spec is a little light on detail because the nitty gritty stuff will debut in time for developer events scheduled for November.

For now, we’ve been told that the spec will offer the following characteristics:

  • Up to 80Gbps operation, based on a new physical layer architecture, using existing 40Gbps USB Type-C passive cables and newly-defined 80Gbps USB Type-C active cables.
  • Updates to data and display protocols to better use the increase in available bandwidth.
    • USB data architecture updates now enable USB 3.2 data tunneling to exceed 20Gbps.
    • Updated to align with the latest versions of the DisplayPort and PCIe specifications.
  • Backward compatibility with USB4 Version 1.0, USB 3.2, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3.

80Gbps is plenty of capacity, but the spec isn’t designed to devote it all to a single connection. Instead the plan is to share out the 80Gbps among different devices connected to a hub or dock. Which is a worthy outcome, given that system builders are increasingly offering PCs with just a couple of USB-C connectors that are suggested as the way to handle video and external storage, a decision that all-but-necessitates the acquisition of a dock or hub.

Further work on the spec will see protocol updates developed to enable higher performance USB 3.2, DisplayPort and PCI Express data tunnelling to best use the higher available bandwidth.

It may be some time before USB4 v2.0 lands in a device you can fondle: the Promoter Group says the spec and activity around its debut is intended for developers.

“Branding and marketing guidelines will be updated in the future to include USB 80Gbps both for identifying certified products and certified cables,” the Group’s announcement states.

Which means, yet again, that punters will need to be careful when buying USB-C cables.

The standard has earned plenty of criticism for requiring specific cables to take advantage of its features, and retailers know to price the good ones at a premium.

But on some far-off day those cables will be cheap, and USB-C will be able to carry both 80Gbps and 240W. At that point it will be a contender for One Cable To Rule Them All, and allow all manner of appliances to be powered and wired with a single connector. ®

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