FireWire speeds set to quadruple

Backers say a new electrical specification will see the speed of the data-interfacing standard rise from 800Mbps to 3.2Gbps.

The speed of FireWire is set to quadruple next year after the group behind it announced a new specification for the networking interface.

FireWire is the best-known brand name for the 1394 standard, which is also known as i.Link. The technology is used as a high-speed data interface for linking devices such as external hard drives and camcorders to PCs.

On Thursday, the 1394 Trade Association announced the S3200 electrical specification for FireWire. The specification builds upon the existing IEEE 1394b standard by boosting the maximum speed from 800 megabits per second to 3.2Gbps. Importantly, S3200 can use the cables and connectors already in use for FireWire 800 products, the association claimed.

"The S3200 standard will sustain the position of IEEE 1394 as the absolute performance leader in multipurpose I/O ports for consumer applications in computer and CE devices," the 1394 Trade Association's executive director, James Snider, said in a statement. "There is a very clear migration path from 800Mbps to 3.2Gbps, with no need for modifications to the standard and no requirement for new cables or connectors."

The association hopes to have the S3200 specification ratified by early February, and has used the speed boost to position FireWire as an alternative to other recent interfacing technologies.

The association's statement claimed the development of S3200 meant users would see no advantage from eSATA, a competing connectivity standard that is starting to appear on hard drives and PCs alike. The association said that eSATA is not faster, nor can it provide electrical power to devices as FireWire can. S3200 is also much faster than USB 2.0 and can provide more power to devices than USB 2.0.

The association also said that FireWire would soon be able to operate over cable television coaxial cables, and said S3200 would make the standard fast enough to move uncompressed high-definition television signals over long distances at a lower cost than HDMI, the current standard for HD connections.

FireWire is, according to the association, "the only separable interface today that can record HD programs in their full digital quality while also meeting the content protection requirements of copyright holders."

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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