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Upgraded FireWire to hit 3.2Gb/s speeds

New spec coming in February 2008

FireWire is set for a significant speed boost, with the trade group behind the standard announcing the new S3200 spec – an upgrade which will use existing cables and connectors but will quadruple transfer speeds to 3.2 Gigabits per second. Current FireWire 800 hard drives can easily move over 90 megabytes per second.

The 1394 Trade Association says the S3200 spec, which is expected to be ratified in February 2008, will work with cables and connectors already deployed for FireWire 800 products. The group insisted that S3200 would bring FireWire to the new performance level without compromising existing features. For example, FireWire provides much more electrical power than any other interface, freeing users from inconvenient AC power adaptors.

FireWire products built using S3200 will directly connect to every previously released FireWire product. Alternative cable options are available to carry FireWire over long distances - 100 metres or more - even at high speeds.

The best hard drives with FireWire 800 can move data almost three times as fast as the best hard drives with USB 2.0, claimed the standards body.

S3200 will also enhance FireWire's strong position in consumer electronics A/V devices such as camcorders and televisions. Today, 100 percent of HD set top boxes provided by cable companies have FireWire ports. So do 100 models of HDTV. Many companies are pursuing whole-home HD network solutions using FireWire - notably the HANA Alliance.

Technology development is also nearing completion to permit FireWire to operate over cable television coaxial cables, without disrupting the existing programme content. S3200 lets FireWire move even uncompressed HD signals over long distances at much lower cost than systems such as HDMI.

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

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