USB 3.2 specification doubles USB Type-C bandwidth

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group today announced a new incremental upgrade to USB, dubbed USB 3.2, which will supposedly introduce a 2x performance improvement over the current generation of USB.

While USB hosts and devices were originally designed as single-lane solutions, USB Type-C™ cables were created to support multi-lane operation to ensure a path for scalable performance. Of course, a new USB 3.2 host must be used with a new USB 3.2 device and the appropriate certified USB Type-C cable to enjoy the headline speed and bandwidth advances.

New USB 3.2 hosts and devices can now be designed as multi-lane solutions, allowing for up to two lanes of 5Gbps or two lanes of 10Gbps operation.

Even with a proper USB 3.2 host, you might not see blazing fast 20Gbps transfers.

However, the devices you're using will have to support the newest USB hardware and come with the modern USB-C connectors. Some USB-connected SSD drives can saturate a USB 3.1 cable, so there may be some benefit for USB 3.2 there.

You can find out everything you need to know about USB-C here, but essentially, rather than a data transfer standard, it's the latest form of physical connection for USB, like with microUSB and miniUSB.

The USB Type-C cables were created to support multi-lane operation but older standards couldn't take full advantage of it. USB 3.2 is designed as multi-lane solutions to offer two different approaches: either two lanes of 5 Gbps or two lanes of 10 Gbps. In many implementations, this connector, or port, is also used to deliver Thunderbolt 3 capabilities. Using those techniques for regular USB data transfers was a clear step forward to take. However, all of your devices (for example, a notebook and an external SSD) will have to comply with the USB 3.2 spec for you to realize those speed gains. The USB 3.2 specification is now in a final draft review phase, but the formal release is planned to go ahead in time for the USB Developer Days North America event in September. The hub specification is being changed to ensure that it can properly handle switching between two pair and four pair operation, but that's the full extent of the changes.

  • Joey Payne