Thunderbolt 4 is still relatively early, but that doesn’t stop Intel from working on the next interface standard, Thunderbolt 5. And thanks to the hastily deleted tweet from Intel CEO Gregory Bryant who got caught Anandtech, we’ve already got a preview of the next-generation Thunderbolt standard, which can offer twice the speed of Thunderbolt 4 while retaining physical USB-C connectors.
The most significant thing in the post was the title “80G PHY Technology” – referring to a physical connector that offers 80 Gbps connections that would be twice as fast as Thunderbolt 4 (which maximizes 40 Gbps).
The next line confirms that the new technology will continue to use USB-C connections (“USB 80G is designed to support the existing USB-C ecosystem”, which is very good news for anyone who has already invested heavily in USB-C. hubs and devices will still need to be replaced with devices that specifically support Thunderbolt 5 (or whatever Intel name it is) when it is released – but that means we still have at least one generation of stable, backward-compatible connectors that all exist existing chargers, drives, and activation keys still work.
The last significant factor revealed by the accidentally published poster is that the next generation communication technology uses PAM-3 modulation technology, which like Anandtech explain, is a new method for transmitting bits over a cable, which allows for higher bandwidth than current methods. (I recommend reading the much more technical explanation if you are interested in the details.)
We’re still likely to have months, if not years, before Thunderbolt 5 hits the market. Thunderbolt 4 is only a year old, for beginners, and much remains to be done to continue the implementation of the current standard. Still, it’s interesting to sneak into what the future of connections looks like, even if it takes a while before you can use it.