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Lucent Releases USB Technology Improvements

Lucent Technologies Inc. announced Monday improvements to Universal Serial Bus technology that will speed up next-generation devices nearly 40 times the current standard.

The company's release of Lucent's USB host controller and transceiver chips using the USB 2.0 standard boosts the speed it takes to convert parallel data in peripherals to serial data in computers. Computers using the USB 2.0 standard will exchange information up to 480 megabits per second, compared to the USB 1.1 chipset, which tops out at 12 Mbit/s.

That's good news for manufacturers of digital subscriber line and cable modems, as companies work on solutions for customers to squeeze every bit of speed they can out of their Internet connection.

The new chipset is also a boon for users of printers, scanners, drive backup and digital video cameras, who would see their data-intensive applications choking the connection between the two devices. In the arena of desktop publishing, where these devices are often run simultaneously, the benefits are considerable.

The rate of improvement cuts down application times in ways that will make customers very happy. Downloading a "roll" of film from a digital camera or scanning a picture will take seconds now, instead of minutes. A one-gigabyte disk backup taking nearly a half-hour using USB 1.1 technology is done in under a minute with the new chipset.

Dan Devine, Lucent Microelectronics Group USB product manager, said the new standard solves the problems created with the advent of big-data appliances like the digital video camera and set-top boxes.

"We have solved the bandwidth shortage problems for both current and future USB connections," Devine said. "The 12 megabits per second of shared bandwidth in USB 1.1 just isn't enough anymore. Personal computers, PC add-in cards and set-top boxes need more information carrying capacity to get more done faster. With our unique solution, our customers can avoid the hassle of having to develop additional chips themselves or obtain them from other sources to increase USB 1.1 bandwidth. As a result, they can get their products to their customers quicker."

The technology is the culmination of the USB Promoter Group, made up of technology heavyweights Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp., Lucent, Microsoft Corp., NEC Corp. and Phillips Semiconductors.

The group was formed early last year to address the growing number of data-intensive applications like high-resolution video-conferencing and high-speed Internet access.

Pat Gelsinger, Intel's Desktop Products Group vice president, said the upgrade also frees consumers from switching to a new technology.

"Since the high-speed mode has the same basic architecture of USB, migrating existing USB peripherals to USB 2.0 is a much easier task than transferring to a brand new technology," Gelsinger said. "Also, because USB 2.0 will be fully forward and backward compatible with current USB systems and peripherals, working with existing cables and connectors, consumers have the benefit of using devices they already have."

Lucent plans to release samples to manufacturers by October, with its mass launch in December. In quantities of 10,000 the USS-2000 host controller chip will sold for $8.50, while the USS2X1 will go for $3.75.