Thunderbolt 3 Is Royalty-Free Now, And It Becomes USB 4

Intel promised in 2017 that they would make Thunderbolt 3 royalty-free and that happened. As the USB specification is developed by the industry group, the company has given the specification to the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) for its high-speed interconnect. The specs have been taken by the USB-IF which will use it to form the basis for the USB4, following USB 3.2, the next iteration of USB.

Not only that the bandwidth of USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 would be doubled thank to Thunderbolt 3 to 40Gb/s, rising from 20Gb/s, but the simultaneous use of multiple display protocols and data is also possible in USB 4 via Intel’s Thunderbolt 3. Everybody expects the specifications of USB 4 to be primarily a superset of the USB 3.2 and Thunderbolt 23, so both the Thunderbolt 3 protocol and the traditional USB family of protocols (up to and including the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2) are introduced in a single document.

Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 Will Become USB 4

Intel has also announced the upcoming Ice Lake platform that will begin its shipping later this year and will integrate both USB 3.1 Gen 2 (aka USB 3.2 Gen 2) and Thunderbolt 3 controllers. Intel, in order to offer Thunderbolt 3, they must use an additional chip also manufactures by them, either the Titan Ridge or Alpine Ridge Thunderbolt 3 controllers. The system-builders no longer need to choose whether an extra chip is required due to the integration into the platform.

We should also appreciate the prowess USB-IF has when it comes to naming things. Previously, these controllers used to have a space between the version number and the USB, but in case of the USB4, the area has been ditched. Even though some things change, we should also appreciate the inconsistency because it is not bad at all. That is the same organization that offered successive USB 3 generations the names “Gen 1,” “Gen 2,” and “Gen 2×2.”

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