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Intel has handed over Thunderbolt 3 to the USB Implementers Forum. The committee now develops USB 4 on its basis, which can handle 40 GBit/s.
Intel makes Thunderbolt royalty-free
About 10 years ago Intel and Apple developed Thunderbolt together. The protocol connects the DisplayPort standard with other PCIe lanes, making the interface a true all-rounder. In the current version 3 up to 40 GBit/s of data transfer are possible. The features of USB 3.1 Gen 2 such as Power Delivery and the USB Type C connector have also been incorporated into the standard. In the current MacBook generation, Apple has exclusively integrated Thunderbolt 3 interfaces which function simultaneously for charging, connecting monitors and as a data line. Other manufacturers like Dell also rely on Thunderbolt in their notebooks.
For a long time, Intel was the Thunderbolt rights owner, so users had to pay royalties. However, the interface is now so widespread that the company dares to take the next step and makes Thunderbolt royalty-free. For this Intel has handed over the standard to the USB Implementers Forum. The committee specifies the USB standard. As both companies announced, the new USB 4 standard is already based on Thunderbolt 3.
USB 4 is based on Thunderbolt 3 and can handle 40 GBit/s
Because Intel has made Thunderbolt 3 royalty-free, the USB-IF can also develop the new USB 4 standard on its basis. The specifications released yesterday already show the advantages of merging the two standards. The goal is to combine the advantages of both worlds. The transfer rate of 40 GBit/s of Thunderbolt 3 is twice as fast as the current USB 3.2 standard. The lane bonding of USB allows the best possible negotiation of the speed down to the USB 2.0 standard. Backward compatibility with Thunderbolt 3 is also ensured. This makes USB 4 the new universal interface for notebooks, which can simultaneously output video and data streams and charge the notebook with up to 100 watts. This will eliminate the need for docking stations in the future.
Introduction possibly already with Intel’s Ice Lake, AMD can now integrate Thunderbolt 3 too
However, it is still unclear when the first products with the new USB 4 interface will be launched on the market. The first integrations with the new processor generation called Ice Lake could possibly come at the end of 2019. Intel wants to integrate Thunderbolt 3 as a standard in Ice Lake. If the standards really don’t differ too much, USB 4 could be used instead of Thunderbolt 3.
The opening of the Thunderbolt standard allows manufacturers such as AMD and ASMedia to develop their own solutions for Thunderbolt 3 and USB 4 for the first time. As a result, the spread of the standard can hardly be stopped.