FireWire Plans to Quadruple Speed

Last week, the IEEE1394 Trade Association announced a new standard that will take FireWire from 800 Mbps to 3.2 Gbps. The new standard, called S3200, will use the same cables and connectors as the current IEEE 1394b standard.

The standard expected to be ratified in February, 2008.

"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."

FireWire has some specific advantages over competitors. It can deliver more electrical power and its peer-to-peer architecture allows it to operate independent of a computer bus.

The announcement by the IEEE1394 Trade Association positioned FireWire 3200 directly against eSATA. It also noted that no current hard disk can exploit this data rate, but at least FW3200 can deliver electrical power to external devices.

The Association also appears to be targeting HDTV and HDMI. HDMI has not met with what would be called overwhelming enthusiasm in many circles because the connectors cannot be fastened securely and because of handshaking problems between some systems.

"Technology development is also nearing completion to permit FireWire to operate over cable television coaxial cables, without disrupting the existing program content. With S3200, FireWire becomes fast enough to move even uncompressed HD signals over long distances at much lower cost than solutions such as HDMI," the announcement said.

With the current momentum of eSATA for disk drives and wide-spread consumer confusion over their HDTV connectors, S3200/FireWire 3200 will face some serious marketing challenges. The upside is that it uses the same connectors, and that will likely secure its place amongst those professionals and consumers already highly invested in FireWire technologies.