When discussing networking controllers, often we deal with single chips that convert PCIe to Ethernet. With Thunderbolt, an additional TB controller is needed at either end, increasing cost and power. However now with mobile devices losing dedicated Ethernet ports, and the rise in professional docking stations, converting from USB to a Wired Ethernet solution is usually a common choice for users that work out of hotels or those that want to add simple Ethernet capability to a device without any. Rather than use a USB-to-PCIe controller, Aquantia is pushing forward with its new generation of USB-to-Ethernet chips designed to run at 5G and 2.5G speeds.

The new chips, the AQtion AQC111U and the AQtion AQC112U, are designed to simply the USB-to-Ethernet scenario while supporting multi-gigabit Ethernet speeds. Dubbed as ‘the easiest way to implement multi-gig’, the new chips are set to be used in dongles and docking stations from the main ODMs and OEMs in this space: Bizlink, Edimax, Goodway, and Sunrich. Hardware will be available in Q4 2018.

For users looking to install point-to-point wired Ethernet speeds beyond 1 Gbps / 133 MBps, this looks like it is going to be the best option without a switch and without buying the bulky and power hungry TB3-to-10G adaptors that currently exist on the market.

Pricing will be announced by the vendors later this year, although to be commercially successful we hope that they will be in the $25-40 range. Equivalent 1G USB connectors currently cost sub-$10, for reference.

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  • PeachNCream - Monday, June 04, 2018 - link

    It's nice to see faster ethernet becoming available over USB dongles, but I would prefer if we found a way to push wired network directly over USB natively as opposed to using a dedicated ethernet controller of some sort. I also see diminished uses for wired networking in non-enterprise environments like SOHO or residential installs. Certainly, there are people that need wired networks for various reasons, but it feels a lot like we're rapidly reaching a point where plugging into a network via RJ45 connectors is akin to finding a floppy diskette so you can save a file you're working on. Reply
  • johnthacker - Monday, June 04, 2018 - link

    There already is a way to carry Ethernet over USB, but it's hard to see it having use cases apart from things like point to point connections for programming Arduino or Raspberry Pi system (https://software.intel.com/en-us/connecting-to-int... A dongle to convert it to a RJ45 connection makes more sense than having wall ports with a mix of USB and RJ45 (or optical in some offices), or switches with a mix of USB and RJ45. (I suppose you could try some kind of SFP based solution at the switch to support USB, but ugh.) Especially if you see diminished needs for wired networking, why would you propose wholesale rewiring rather than using a dongle to be compatible with existing wiring?

    I think that increasing residential density will keep wired networks quite useful simply due to interference on common channels for people who live in apartment buildings and other multifamily housing.
    Reply
  • alevan - Monday, June 04, 2018 - link

    You cannot use passive USB connection over 3 meters or active USB connection over 10 meters. Only the traditional ethernet/fiber is practical over large distances. But as you said, on portables users usualy use wireless connection, and wired if there is no alternative, with an USB adapter. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Monday, June 04, 2018 - link

    I implied distance limitations would be overcome in the process of finding a way to put USB to use as a dongle-free network adapter. It's unrealistic to think that current USB standards would do the job, but some future iteration with appropriate cabling might be able to do so as an alternative to the largely wireless world in which we now reside for situations like the fully saturated WiFi spectrum problem John mentioned above. Reply
  • saratoga4 - Tuesday, June 05, 2018 - link

    Electrically, something over a USB port can go a couple meters at gigabit speed, or a couple tens of meters much slower. The only way you overcome that limit is with a single that outputs something with with a lower symbol rate. Reply
  • saratoga4 - Tuesday, June 05, 2018 - link

    Single -> dongle Reply
  • Samus - Monday, June 04, 2018 - link

    USB voltage is too low for any realistic distance beyond 30 feet... Reply
  • oRAirwolf - Monday, June 04, 2018 - link

    It sure would be nice if Aquantia would get their 10G base T switches out the door. These products are mostly worthless at this point without an accompanying reasonably priced switch. I have their 10Gbe NIC in my desktop with a direct connection to my NAS. It is nice but I have other servers that I would like to transition to 10 Gbe as well, but am still just waiting on the switch Aquantia showed off a while ago now. Reply
  • CaedenV - Monday, June 04, 2018 - link

    And yet we still cannot get 5-10gbps ports on $100+ motherboards because it is 'too expensive'
    I thought the move to 1gbps ports was slow.... the move to 5+ is just dragging on and on.

    Very happy to see this though. This may oddly be a better solution for my home server and desktop than a traditional add-in card... which is a really odd thought.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, June 04, 2018 - link

    The cost is still the issue. Years ago as a $5-10 BOM cost port firewire struggled to make it past high end mobos. 2.5/5/10g ethernet controllers are still several times that, and only show up on the highest end boards because the marketing people involved in working out what combinations of parts will sell best think that more USB3 ports, a bank of frag harder disco lights, a fancier audio controller, another bank of frag harder disco lights, a 2nd 1gb network controller, another bank of frag harder disco lights, wifi, or another bank of frag harder disco lights on the board will all get more people to buy a more expensive model.

    Until high end routers start having >1gb ethernet ports, or stand alone switches drop below $100, and stand alone nics below $50; I suspect they're probably right about >1gb ethernet not actually selling a lot of upgrades. Just because the total cost of connecting 2 PCs over 2.5/5/10g ethernet is on par with a flagship mobo, not just a component upgrade on one.

    And as the near total lack of boards with more than 1 USB-C port indicate they clearly don't believe consumers put any real amount of consideration into what we'll be doing with the system 3-6 years from now, so the hope that enabling the high speed network port in a year or two for a lot less than today won't have any weight on their thinking either.
    Reply

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