Faster FireWire on way for gigabit generation

A wider, faster bandwidth standard for FireWire and iLink has gained approval by standards body IEEE

The IEEE has approved the new IEEE 1394-2008 specification that gives support for better bandwidth of up to 3.2Gbps — the standard that is used by Apple's FireWire and Sony's iLink, among others.

Most commonly called FireWire, it was initially intended as a general-use fast serial bus, but has found niches in attached storage and multimedia applications, primarily because of its guaranteed latency.

Like many standards, the issue for IEEE 1394 is maintaining compatibility across different generations, and ensuring that the protocol keeps up with advances in hardware technique. Many implementations are still using the 400Mbps S400 specification, even though the 800Mbps S800 standard has been available for some time.

The IEEE on Wednesday announced that it had formally approved the IEEE 1394-2008 spec, which will introduce support for S1600 (1.6Gbps) and S3200 (3.2Gbps) while offering full backwards compatibility with S400 and S800 ports. The IEEE 1394-2008 spec will become available in October, according to the IEEE.

FireWire's main competitor is the Universal Serial Bus (USB), which is more widely used in desktop and mobile applications and is less expensive to implement. It is currently on version 2.0 with a top speed of 480Mbps, with 3.0 due out in 2010 at a mooted fastest rate of 4.8Gbps. There has been some controversy over USB 3.0: the standard is being driven by Intel, with other partners in the USB industry group complaining that key details of the new specification have been withheld from them, thus leaving them at a competitive disadvantage. Intel denies these claims.