Since mid-2017 we've been talking about the impending arrival of USB 3.2, the next version of the USB Implementers Forum's ubiquitous standard for connecting external devices. With 3.2 serving as both an upgrade to the feature set and a physical layer tweak to provide more bandwidth, according to the USB-IF at MWC 2019, the technology will finally come to fruition this year.

According to the organization that sets the standards for the USB interface, discrete USB 3.2 controllers capable of supporting the standard's new 20 Gb/s Type-C mode will be available this year. Being a specification-setting group, the USB Implementers Forum does not name companies that develop actual chips. But given the limited number of companies that develop standalone USB controllers, the names of the suspects are pretty well known.

Since discrete USB controllers are used mostly by high-performance desktop systems, we're likely to see the first USB 3.2 chips to land on high-end motherboards first. In which case we could see motherboard venders showing off product sometimes this summer, or maybe a bit later. Meanwhile peripherals will likely lag a bit for compatibility testing and the like, in which case we'd start seeing them in 2020.

Though technically only a point upgrade for the USB standard, USB 3.2 includes multiple enhancements for the standard in terms of bandwidth, as well as changes to how the standard is branded. In terms of bandwidth, USB 3.2 introduces the ability to use two high-speed USB Type-C Tx/Rx channels – the so-called x2 mode – to get 20 Gbps maximum throughput on a Type-C cable. The technology retains the USB 3.1 physical layer data rates and encoding techniques (SuperSpeed and SuperSpeed+), so while bonding two channels is new, how those individual channels work at a low-level is not.

Meanwhile, USB 3.2 branding will be absorbing the earlier USB 3.0/3.1 branding, as the overriding USB 3.x standard continues to evolve separately of the underlying SuperSpeed encoding technique. As USB 3.2 hosts and devices roll out on the market, we’ll see the branding switch over to USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps SuperSpeed), USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps SuperSpeed+), and USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (2x10Gbps SuperSpeed+). So while all future products will be 3.2, they won't necessarily support the higher 10Gbps and 20Gbps data rates. Those decisions are up to the device manufacturer, especially as not all devices need the higher speed modes and the increased build costs that come with them.

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Source: USB Implementers Forum

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  • WJMazepas - Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - link

    Isnt easier to put TB3 instead of this?
  • fred666 - Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - link

    TB3 is still going to be expensive and unused, while USB3.2 will end up being adopted eventually
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - link

    Not "adopted eventually", to be fair.

    Once USB 3.2 launches, USB 3.1 is a dead, EOL marketing term. All USB ports (type-A, type-C, 5 Gbps only, etc.) will be labeled as USB 3.2 ports.

    But most ports will still be USB 3, I mean USB 3.1 Gen 1, I mean USB 3.2 Gen 1, so TB3 & USB 3.2 Gen2x2 will be premium choices.

    I wonder whether TB3 will simply absorb USB 3.2 Gen2x2 since Intel is now integrating TB3 onto the chipset.
  • peevee - Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - link

    "But most ports will still be USB 3, I mean USB 3.1 Gen 1, I mean USB 3.2 Gen 1"

    Marketoids must die, painfully.
  • The Benjamins - Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - link

    USB 3.2 can't work on Type A or B connectors only Type C has enough pins.
  • phoenix_rizzen - Wednesday, February 27, 2019 - link

    USB 3.2 Gen 1 will work with Type-A or MicroUSB connectors/cables just fine.

    USB 3.2 Gen 2 will work with Type-A or MicroUSB connectors/cables just fine.

    USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 will require a Type-C connector/cable.

    Which makes the rebranding even more brain-dead. Should have just left it with 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2.
  • HStewart - Wednesday, February 27, 2019 - link

    That sounds right - USB 3.2 can only be do what is compatible with Type A connectors - but oddly USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 is only still half the speed of TB3 - I bet a small update to TB3 could make it work USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 devices if they ever come out.

    There is absolutely no advantage of USB 3.2 over the TB3 - my predication for TB4 is 2x speed of TB4 or 80Gbs and also 100% USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 compatible
  • SaturnusDK - Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - link

    TB3 was never really interesting. Proprietary and locked to Intel until recently and no backwards compatibility with previous standards really made TB3 more or less useless by the vast majority of users. Add to that a severe lack of bandwidth available, in the form of free directly connected PCIe3.0 lanes needed for sustained full speed on the only platform that could really use it, and you have the perfect recipe for a failed standard.
  • jeremyshaw - Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - link

    eh? TB3 is absolutely backwards compatible with TB2. People have been banging on about failed standard since TB1 and nothing has come of the griping.
  • Dug - Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - link

    Lack of bandwidth and backwards compatibility? You've got that wrong.
    USB can't handle hub duties like tb3 can. Look for a usb c to usb c hub. All you will find is pass through.

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