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USB 3.0 Technology at a Glance

Need to brush up on the latest info about USB 3.0? John MacWilliams explains the pros, cons, history, and future of USB 3.0 technology at a glance.


USB 3.0 Super SpeedThe Universal Serial Bus standard has been one of the most successful connector specifications ever, shepherded by the USB Implementers Forum.

USB dates back to 2008 and has gone through versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 – all as rectangular copper alloy interfaces. Billions have been sold worldwide in smartphones, tablets, printers, routers, PCs, workstations, servers, and other equipment (mostly as an I/O interface and with millions of USB cables).

The current 3.1 version transfers data at up to 10Gb/s – on par with the Thunderbolt interface. It is backward-compatible with USB 2.0 and has several configurations, including the microUSB connector used on many smartphones and tablets.

One major feature has been its ability to transmit current: 900mA at 5V in USB 3.0 and ≤5A at 12V in 3.1. Thus, the USB connector is used as a charging port for many mobile devices, which greatly increases its versatility.

There has been talk about a fiber optic USB for duplex multimode fiber. Prototypes have been built, and when equipment needs speeds faster than say, 20Gb/s, a fiber optic version might well be introduced. However, there are already several popular fiber optic connectors, which could also serve that purpose.

One final thing: Copper and its circuitry keep getting better, so don’t rule out a USB 4.0 at 20Gb/s for up to one-meter distances.

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John MacWilliams

Market Segment Director-Computer, Peripheral and Consumer at Bishop & Associates Inc.
John has enjoyed a long and diverse career in the electronics industry, including management positions with IRC, TRW, AMP, and his own company, US Competitors LLC. He is the author of many industry articles, including past and current connector industry roadmaps, US government competitiveness initiatives, and numerous Bishop Reports on the computer and consumer electronics industries. He is an outspoken supporter of the future of US manufacturing in a global marketplace. John is a graduate Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn.
John MacWilliams

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