Intel Readies Multi-Use 5G Modems to Compete With Qualcomm

Intel is pushing beyond previous mobile missteps and introducing a 5G chipset range to compete with Qualcomm and take the next-gen tech beyond smartphones.

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) says it is introducing its first 5G modem, which will support both low-band and high-band frequencies for 5G in 2017. 5G is a next-generation wireless technology that uses multiple antenna arrays (MIMO) and other technology to deliver a gigabit-plus experience for consumers, allowing a full HD movie to be downloaded over the air in seconds.

5G will use much higher bands than previous wireless technologies, with the 28GHz range the focus of many tests right now. Intel also says it will support frequencies between 3.4GHz and 4.2GHz in the "sub-6GHz bands" to facilitate testing in Europe and China.

First up to help push development will be a 28GHz and "sub-6GHz" transceiver, a transmitter and receiver combined. Intel will start providing samples of this to customers in the first half of 2017.

For all the latest news on 5G, visit the 5G site here on Light Reading.

The Intel 5G modem proper -- codenamed "Goldridge" -- will follow in the second half of 2017. Intel is aiming to carry out trials in the US, South Korea and Japan, all of which are frontrunners in the 5G race.

If typical development timelines hold, this means that the modem could start to arrive in products very late in 2018, or in early 2019. Some fixed 5G networks are expected to appear even sooner, but the first 5G mobile deployments are likely to occur over the 2019-20 timeframe.

Intel's idea is to ensure the basic architecture remains flexible. Initially, the modem could be used in home routers, for instance, but Intel has also rustled up a connected car development kit. The technology could also make its way into other Internet of Things hardware, such as drones, in the future.

The main competitors to the Intel 5G modem so far are the Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) Snapdragon X50 and Samsung Corp. 's 5G offering. Qualcomm, like Intel, will start sampling in the second half of 2017, while Samsung is promising miniaturized chipsets for smartphones soon. (See Samsung Gets Ready to Shrink 5G Antennas & Chipsets and Oh Snap! Qualcomm Unveils X50, Its First 5G Modem.)

The apparent difference so far is that the Qualcomm and Samsung silicon is focused on 28GHz, while Intel says it will support 28GHz and low-band 5G. Whatever happens, 2017 is shaping up as a proof-of-concept year for 5G, with major chipmakers lining up behind the next-gen wireless technology.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

DanJones 1/6/2017 | 12:05:12 AM
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