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Thunderbolt 5 may already be in development — Intel leak suggests 80Gbps bandwidth

MacBook Port
(Image credit: Future)

Intel may already be working on Thunderbolt 5, the next generation of universal cable connectivity, and it's expected to deliver high-speed 80Gbps bandwidth according to a now-deleted post.

Spotted by AnandTech, Intel's executive vice president of the Client Computing Group Gregory Bryant posted a tweet showcasing his visit to Intel’s Israel R&D facilities. One image showed information on Thunderbolt development, which has now been taken down. 

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The poster in the picture shows “80G PHY Technology,” suggesting Intel is working on physical layer (PHY) connectivity with 80Gbps bandwidth. This allows data to be moved to and from external drives at high speeds, and it's double the 40Gbps bandwidth found in Thunderbolt 4. You'll also find Thunderbolt 3 delivers the same 40Gbps speeds, making the leap all the more impressive.

(Image credit: AnandTech)

The poster also states "USB 80G" will be able to support "the existing USB-C ecosystem," meaning the next-generation cable will be compatible with USB-C ports.

Since Thunderbolt 4 is backward compatible with previous versions of Thunderbolt and connects via USB Type-C, Thunderbolt 5 will be an upgrade that won't require a new kind of connection. Intel appears to be gearing up for a seamless transition to the next generation of connectivity to double bandwidth speeds.

The poster also notes that the new Thunderbolt will be "based on novel PAM-3 modulation technology." The report goes into further detail on how PAM-3 (Pulse Amplitude Modulation) differs from PAM-4, but ultimately, it allows for higher bandwidth without limitations.

Intel has yet to officially announce its plans for Thunderbolt 5, or even what the new generation of universal cable connectivity will be named. You'll find Thunderbolt 4 is still in its infancy, with modern laptops like the Dell XPS 13 9310 and docking stations only starting to include the connectivity. If the leak is to be believed, we may have to wait a few more years until Thunderbolt 5 comes along.