In a move meant to increase the adoption of Thunderbolt 3, beginning next year Intel will no longer charge royalties to 3rd-party chipmakers who use the specification. This will ensure that the Thunderbolt 3 interface becomes the data port de facto standard on various devices ranging from VR headsets to PCs.
One of the advantages of Thunderbolt 3 is that it offers high speeds of up to 40 Gbps and this means a 4k movie file can be transferred in half a minute. And not only can it link to 4K peripherals but it can also power devices. However, due to low availability and high cost, its success has been hampered. Part of what has contributed to the high cost are Intel’s licensing fees. This is despite the fact that Thunderbolt 3 as a USB-C solution is highly versatile.
Additionally, Intel is also engaged in efforts towards integrating Thunderbolt 3 into CPUs of the future and this is also expected to increase the adoption rate. Despite the fact that Alpine Ridge, the pioneering Thunderbolt 3 chips, were unveiled back in Q3 of 2015, Intel’s Kaby Lake chipsets which were released last year did not have support for Thunderbolt 3. This forced vendors to separately add the Alpine Ridge chips. Some of them did not bother as it was a complex process and obviously added to the expenses.
Besides support for USB-C, Alpine Ridge chips also offer support for the second generation USB 3.1 which is capable of speeds reaching up to 10 Gbps. These speeds are double what the first generation USB 3.1 offered. Many desktop computer motherboards support the second generation USB 3.1 but that support has come from other chipsets and not Alpine Ridge. This is also to avoid complexity and the extra expense.
When Thunderbolt 3 is integrated into the processors, however, issues of complexity and expense no longer exist. And even though system builders will also need to do more work if they intend to hook the physical interface to the processor, it will be simpler and cheaper.
Intel’s move is also revolutionary in the sense that it is the only firm that can currently make the Alpine Ridge chips but from next year the Thunderbolt 3 specification will be available to more manufacturers. This means that other third parties such as AMD systems will now be allowed to make cheaper chips that come with support for Thunderbolt 3 further increasing the adoption of USB-C.