Intel spills the beans about 80Gbps Thunderbolt 5

Posted on Monday, Aug 02 2021 @ 09:46 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Via Twitter, Intel Client Computing Group chief Gregory M Bryant shared some Thunderbolt-related photos from a visit to Intel's facilities in Israel. In his initial post, there were a total of four photos, but it seems he spilled a bit too much details as the current version of his tweet contains just three pictures.

Next Thunderbolt supports 80Gbps and PAM-3

Fortunately, AnandTech was quick enough to take a screengrab. The deleted photo is the juiciest one of course, it contains a couple of details that shouldn't be out in the open just yet.

The meat here is that Thunderbolt 5 will support 80Gbps connections, double as much as what's currently possible with Thunderbolt 4. Secondly, Intel's slide reveals USB 80G is targeted to support the existing USB-C ecosystem. The higher bandwidth will be achieved thanks to PAM-3 modulation technology. The technique allows the transmitting of a 3-bit signal.
The third line is actually where it gets technically interesting. ‘The PHY will be based on novel PAM-3 modulation technology’. This is talking about how the 0 and 1s are transmitted – traditionally we talk about NRZ encoding, which just allows for a 0 or a 1 to be transmitted, or a single bit. The natural progression is a scheme allowing two bits to be transferred, and this is called PAM-4 (Pulse Amplitude Modulation), with the 4 being the demarcation for how many different variants two bits could be seen (either as 00, 01, 10, or 11). PAM-4, at the same frequency, thus has 2x the bandwidth of an NRZ connection.
Thunderbolt 5 is 80Gbps

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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