USB 3.0: Rocket Fast File Transfers

In this post, I share with you an interview with Jeff Ravencraft who is a technology strategist in Intel’s Communication Technology Lab, where he leads Intel’s effort in USB and Wireless USB. Jeff is also the Chairman and President of the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) industry group, Chairman of the Wireless USB Promoters group, and also serves as the USB 3.0 Promoter group chairman.


Hi, Jeff. Thanks for taking the time to talk about USB 3.0. Give us a quick overview of what was announced at IDF this year.


Sure. In Pat Gelsinger’s keynote address, he announced that Intel is leading the formation of the USB 3.0 Promoter group to define and promote SuperSpeed USB, the next generation personal interconnect technology to meet the needs of multimedia consumer electronics, PC peripherals, and mobile devices. The first objective of the promoter group will be to complete the USB 3.0 specification by first half 2008.


What is different about USB 3.0 and why will people care?


The primary objective with USB 3.0 is a proposed performance increase to over 10x of Hi-Speed USB which today is 480 Mbps. This is a significant enhancement for consumers who are working more and more with ever expanding file sizes such as movies. For example, a 25 GB HD Movie would take only 70 seconds to transfer between devices. Studies show that a consumer’s patience on waiting time is about 1.5 minutes and after 5 minutes they abort what they were doing. That same file transferred over High-speed USB would take 13.9 minutes – an unacceptable wait time for most people.

Although this is the principle objective of USB 3.0 many of the media intense applications will be used on mobile platforms where preserving battery life is also fundamentally important. Power efficiency will be the second principle objective for the next USB specification.


At IDF, we also talked about Wireless USB 1.1. I know for myself, I would love to get rid of as many wires as I could. Why is the industry continuing to promote wired USB and not just placing all our effort towards wireless?


I get that question all the time. First, it’s about the consumer who wants choice and flexibility. One method isn’t always the most optimal. Secondly, wired USB delivers power to many portable devices and also allows those devices to recharge their batteries. For example, I see that you are recharging your wireless headset via USB right now. Third, not all environments are conducive to wireless technology. And finally, wired connections are simply more reliable than wireless. I know that usually when I have a choice between wired and wireless, I go wired.


When do you expect the first USB 3.0 devices to be available?


If the USB 3.0 Promoter’s group meets its objective of spec completion in the first half of 2008, then we should see the first silicon solutions on the market in 2009, followed by end products in late 2009 or early 2010.


What other companies are involved in the development of the spec?


HP, Microsoft Corporation, NEC Corporation, NXP Semiconductors and Texas Instruments Incorporated are all members of the USB 3.0 Promoter Group.


Jeff, thanks for your time today.


My pleasure.

9 Responses to USB 3.0: Rocket Fast File Transfers

  1. Igor says:

    This is deceptive to say the least.
    No single hard drive can copy files at 365 MB/sec sustained.
    In other words, it is great that the wire will support such a speed but consumer won’t see it anytime soon.

  2. Jeff Ravencraft says:

    Hi Igor, if we were looking thought our rear view mirror you would be correct but we’re not, we’re looking forward and preparing a USB 3.0 technology roadmap that will intercept emerging flash based solid state drives (SSD) that will be able to transfer files this quickly if not faster. The flash based SSD capable of executing these types of transfers are forecasted to enter the market in 2008/09 timeframe. The industry time line for USB 3.0 is as follows, USB 3.0 specification completed in the first half of 2008, with the first discrete Si entering the market roughly about a year later in early 2009, with end product based upon that Si entering the market 8-12 months later with broad deployment beginning in 2010.

  3. littlebu says:

    Sounds good, so exciting technology. But I want to know first what different design method or other trouble leaded by USB3.0 design to IC engineer?

  4. Tom Sugar says:

    I hope they increase the available power with USB 3.
    Currently 2.5″ hard drive enclosures have a Y shaped connector – it has TWO usb connections to the host to ensure there is enough power. This is a bit clumsy….
    It would be nice to have a USB 3 hard drive enclosure that requires only one connection to the host. The only issue would be that when you plug into an “old” USB 2 host it would have to report an error as there’s not enough power. IMHO that is a very small issue if the external disc enclosure is clearly marketed as USB 3.

  5. Mick Thompson says:

    Will it be possible to put Vista on a USB 3.0 flash drive? Did I read that right that the first generation of USB 3.0 flash drives will read at at least 365mb/sec?

  6. Vasily says:

    Using USB 3.0 is very good idea for external USB DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) for reproduction Stereo HiRes (up to 384 kHz/24 bit) Audio (WAV /flac) files from computer.
    Note that 384 kHz – is the preferable sampling frequency for digital-audio converters without over-sampling and digital filtering based on the multi-bit digital-analog converters chips R-2R (Delta-Sigma-free!).

  7. Pam Holt says:

    I need to update my usb to 3.0 as I am having problems connecting to my seagate external hard drive. I think I have Intel 2.0 USB and wondered how I went about upgrading? Not very computer literate and would appreciate help.

  8. Cheryl Miller says:

    @Pam, There are many things which might be impacting the performance of your external hard drive. As far as USB 3.0 is concerned, here is some additional information that should help you understand your options. Good luck! USB 3.0 for the Masses blog