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Binding the world under one tech: Can USB Type C do it?

Posted: 05 Aug 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Lattice Semiconductor? USB Type C? connector? MHL? Thunderbolt?

Lattice Semiconductor, which acquired Silicon Image earlier this year, has been making headway in the connectivity market in pursuit of higher resolution and faster frame-rate solutions for mobile, consumer electronics and computers. Armed with MHL and now with SuperMHL technologies, both from Silicon Image, Lattice has rolled out its superMHL chips designed to work over USB Type C connectors.

According to Lattice, the pairing of its low-power superMHL transmitter and receiver chips, SiI8630 and SiI9396, is the first superMHL solution for USB Type-C. It can deliver 4K 60fps video, "concurrently with USB 3.1 data," said Abdullah Raouf, senior marketing manager for Lattice Semiconductor.

USB Type C

USB Type C

Lattice's strategy is to push superMHL by piggybacking on the emergence of USB Type C, whose small, reversible connector is anticipated to grow by many industry analysts. Lattice's big bet is on the USB Type C "alt mode" that allows video. Today, only three connectivity standards are approved for video delivery using Type C alt mode, said Raouf. The superMHL is one of them. The others are DisplayPort 1.3 and Thunderbolt 3.

While both Thunderbolt and superMHL are capable of delivering 4K 60fps video with concurrent USB 3.1 (DisplayPort can't), Lattice claimed that Thunderbolt falls short in features that include power charging via MHL display and remote control command pass through (necessary for TV remote). SuperMHL can do both.

USB Type C

(Source: Lattice Semiconductor)

Will the world coalesce around USB Type C?

Although current adoption of USB Type C is limited to Apple's MacBook and Google's Chromebook, industry analysts are optimistic about the new port. Brian O'Rourke, senior principal analyst, consumer devices and MEMS & sensors, at IHS Technology, stated that although IHS has no forecast for it yet, USB Type C "offers great advantages over traditional USB, including increased data rates, alternate modes and increased power capability." He expects USB Type C to start flooding the mobile market, "primarily due to the ability to deliver up to 100W of power, which will greatly reduce charging time."

More important, USB Type C with its alt modes could "bring some consolidation in the connector market in that consumers will eventually be able to purchase one cable," observed Michael Inouye, principal analyst at ABI Research.

The wired connectivity market remains a tangled web of different cables and plugs that range from HDMI, DisplayPort and MHL to USB and microUSB. In this climate, the notion of a consolidation is a welcome change. Yet, its execution is easier said than done, because different markets (computing, TVs and mobile) have chosen different connectors.

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