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What Is the USB Type-C® Connector?

The USB-IF has secured the convenience and performance of  USB for years to come with the updated USB Type-C—also known as USB-C®—connector. This  symmetrical and reversible 24-pin interconnect can support blazingly fast data transfer rates of up to 20 Gbps and 100W of continuous power flow as well as providing high-bandwidth video, all through a single connection to meet the expanding needs of new electronic equipment in the coming years.

Why Is the USB Type-C Connector Better Than Earlier Connectors?

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Prior to the introduction of USB Type-C and USB Power Delivery, data and power roles were typically fixed. The shape of the receptacle largely dictated the data and power roles. Developed as a flexible and universal connector solution, the USB-C connector maintains a consistent plug and port configuration to address the space and ergonomic needs of a wide range of computing, display and charging applications.  In addition to the physical elements of the USB-C connector, new capabilities are also part of this evolution, specifically USB Power Delivery (PD) and Alternate Modes. The current USB PD specification provides for the capability to deliver as much as 100W per port, and Alternate Modes allows the pins of the connector to be purposed to other specifications, such as DisplayPort and HDMI.

What Are Some Key Features of the USB Type-C Standard?

  • It is designed to support all current generations of USB: USB 2.0 (480 Mbps), USB 3.0 (5 Gbps), USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) and USB 3.2 (20 Gbps)
  • It enables power configuration over a USB connection to be dynamically modified:
    • The default 5V voltage on VBUS can be reconfigured to any level up to 20V
    • The maximum current can also be increased to 5A using an electronically marked 100W USB Type-C PD cable
  • Negotiated on a port-to-port basis with the PD protocol, Alternate Modes allow third-party protocols like DisplayPort, Thunderbolt and HDMI to be transmitted over a USB Type-C cable
  • USB Battery Charging 1.2 (BC1.2), support is also maintained for backward compatibility of products and system designs that have already been executed or that fit the charging needs of the product ecosystem 
  • The USB Type-C connector includes communication pins (CC pins, CC1 and CC2) that are used to manage charging between power sources, power sinks and dual-role devices as well as to control the various protocols that are being implemented on the cable
    • This approach advances the USB connection scheme, bringing flexibility and expandability to the future while maintaining the mechanical dimensions that end products need to streamline design and reduce the number of overall physical ports needed in electronic products
  • The thin 24-pin connector ensures a quick and secure connection:
    • The pins are arranged in a mirrored configuration with a total of six differential pairs in a full-featured cable assembly, which means that cable insertion should always be successful on the first attempt
    • Pins can be re-allocated based upon the protocol needed and the approved mapping provided by the USB-IF industry group
    • USB 2.0 Hi-Speed capability is a mandatory element of the new connector, which is used as a billboard capability to communicate/broadcast the system capability, to prevent “silent failures” when cables are connected and no matching protocols are discovered

USB Type-C Pin Descriptions:

  • USB 2.0 Differential Pairs: D−, D+
  • USB 3.1 Differential Pairs : TX−, TX+, RX−, RX+
  • CC1 and CC2 Pins: Used for cable orientation detection, USB Type-C current advertisement and detection and USB 2.0 Biphase Mark Code (BMC) communication
  • SBU1 and SBU2: Lower-speed signal wires that are allocated for Alternate Mode use only

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*USB Type-C® and USB-C® are registered trademarks of USB Implementers Forum