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DOCSIS

Intel in talks to sell home connectivity unit to MaxLinear

Intel is in talks to sell its home connectivity unit to MaxLinear, multiple industry sources have said.

Bloomberg first reported that Intel and MaxLinear are in M&A discussions, but noted that no final decision has been made and that Intel might still keep the unit. The Intel unit makes chips for DOCSIS modems and gateways and silicon for WiFi and smart home products.

Intel has also shopped its home connectivity unit to others, including Qualcomm and MediaTek, industry sources said.

A sale of all or part of Intel's home connectivity unit to MaxLinear makes sense, given long-standing collaborations on cable modem products that have paired Intel's DOCSIS chipsets with MaxLinear's front-end silicon. In January 2019, for example, Intel and MaxLinear announced they were partnering on platforms designed to support Full Duplex DOCSIS (FDX), an original annex to DOCSIS 3.1 that targets symmetrical speeds of 10 Gbit/s over hybrid fiber/coax networks.

The new DOCSIS 4.0 specs from CableLabs also aim for 10-Gig speeds (along with new low-latency and security capabilities) but are being written to support both FDX and Extended Spectrum DOCSIS (ESD). FDX, a technique favored by Comcast, is designed for upstream and downstream traffic to run on the same block of spectrum. ESD, however, keeps upstream and downstream traffic separate while also expanding the capacity ceiling on the HFC network well above 1.2GHz.

Intel's DOCSIS technology should find another home because the cable industry needs another source of silicon and that cable operators and their device suppliers can use in addition to market leader Broadcom. That competitive fire will keep burning in the DOCSIS 4.0 era as MSOs and device makers look to keep modem and gateway product costs down.

Reports surfaced in November 2019 that Intel was seeking buyers for its connected home chip unit, which, according to Bloomberg, has annual sales of about $450 million. MaxLinear pulled in revenues of $317.18 million for all of 2019, down from $384.99 million in the year-ago period.

Intel, which unloaded its smartphone modem business to Apple last July for about $1 billion, got into the DOCSIS chip game in August 2010 via the acquisition of Texas Instruments' cable modem product line.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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