Thunderbolt bandwidth to double in 2014 with Falcon Ridge

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Intel’s Thunderbolt is still getting off the ground when it comes to consumer adoption, with only a handful of systems supporting the high-speed interconnect and just as few peripherals that can take advantage of it. But Intel is not slowing down its efforts and is already planning several new controllers, including a Falcon Ridge part that’s said to offer 20Gbps per channel, doubling the current throughput.

Current-generation controllers, codenamed “Cactus Ridge”, arrived earlier this year with Apple’s latest Mac releases. They combine DisplayPort and and either two or four PCI Express lanes (depending on the chip used) over a single cable, with 10Gbps of bidirectional bandwidth per channel.

The 10Gbps bi-directional bandwidth will remain unchanged through 2013, with a third-generation “Redwood Ridge” controller expected sometime in the first half of 2013 -- likely during Q2 to go along Intel’s Haswell processors. The chip is said to add support for DisplayPort 1.2.

A fourth-generation “Falcon Ridge” controller will then be released in 2014, according to DigiTimes, offering up to 20Gbps bandwidth per channel. It’s unclear at this point if Intel will be able to achieve those speeds while sticking to copper cables or if they’ll need to adopt the more expensive optical variety.

Intel said earlier this year that it planned to release optical cables for the Thunderbolt interface in 2012, but due to costs the rollout would be limited to enterprise and other commercial applications. Even in the consumer space with copper cabling the current price of Thunderbolt implementations is likely hurting its adoption, with controllers costing PC and motherboard makers about $20 and cables going for ~$50.

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