The PCI Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG) has announced its upcoming PCI Express 6.0 specification, even as consumers eagerly await general availability of PCI Express 4.0.

PCI Express (PCIe) is, as the name suggests, a faster replacement for the ageing Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) standard. Developed by Intel, Dell, HP, and IBM and first released in 2003, PCIe launched with the promise of 2.5 gigatransfers per second (GT/s); PCIe 2.0 doubled this to 5GT/s; PCIe 3.0, found in most modern machines, fell just short of doubling it again with a rise to 8GT/s; PCI Express 4.0, announced in 2011 and officially launched in June 2018 but not yet available in mainstream consumer hardware, unsurprisingly doubles it again to 16GT/s. The PCI Special Interest Group (PCI-SIG) also has PCI Express 5.0, and nobody reading this will be at all surprised to hear that the standard doubles the transfer rate yet again to 32GT/s.

For anybody wondering what comes after PCI Express 5.0, the answer should be entirely unsurprising: The PCI-SIG has announced PCIe 6.0, which once again doubles the transfer rate to 64GT/s. For a 16-line PCIe 6.0 connector, then, that's up to 256GB/s of bandwidth, achieved through four-level pulse amplitude modulation (PAM-4) and low-latency forward error correction (FEC) to boost efficiency.

'Continuing the trend we set with the PCIe 5.0 specification, the PCIe 6.0 specification is on a fast timeline,' claims Al Yanes, PCI-SIG chair and president, of the group's timescale for ratification and release. 'Due to the continued commitment of our member companies, we are on pace to double the bandwidth yet again in a time frame that will meet industry demand for throughput.'

The standard, PCI-SIG has confirmed, is due for release in 2021, which will likely put PCIe 6.0 hardware on a schedule for availability in 2022. As with prior PCIe releases, PCIe 6.0 is backwards-compatible with all prior generations.

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