Intel is hoping to catch the 5G and IoT wave, after it missed the smartphone revolution, betting that it will provide the chips that power the fifth generation of wireless and related Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
After having missed out on opportunities to be part of the 3G cellphone or smartphone revolutions (and reorganizing as a result), the chipmaker is making it clear it intends to be big in 5G. (See Intel Kills Off Its Smartphone Chip Lines.)
At the core of this, says Dr Venkata "Murthy" Renduchintal, the president of Intel's client and IoT businesses and systems architecture group, in an official blog, is the concept that the device market will be vastly expanded by the related twin drivers of 5G and IoT. Like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is optimistic in its predictions about how many devices will be networked over the next several years.
"Today, connectivity is defined by people connecting to other people and to the cloud primarily through mobile devices -- smartphones, PCs, tablets and the like," Renduchintal writes. "In the future we will add more than 50 billion smart and connected devices, machines, autonomous vehicles, buildings and cities."
Some of these networked devices will eat through much more data than a mere human ever could, he predicts: "Consider a mapping drone that pushes 20GB/min of data to the cloud."
"No human being can create 20GB/min of data today!" Renduchintal adds. Which kind of sounds like a challenge, doesn't it?
Anyway, the IoT boss writes that this all leads to one endpoint: "5G is the inflection point from network needs driven largely by PCs and smartphones to an entirely new platform that connects a broad range of 'things' to each other, to people and to the cloud."
So, is Intel in a position to capitalize on 5G? The technology is expected to deliver data streams tens to hundreds of times faster than 4G. It will also, however, utilize much higher bandwidths than previous cellular networks -- namely millimeter and centimeter -- that will present new challenges for all involved in the push to 5G.
The chip vendor may also have other frequency bands in its sights. In order to be a global player in 5G, Intel will likely have to develop silicon that works on today's lower bands, as well as 3.5GHz, 15GHz, 28GHz, 39GHz and 60GHz and above. Phew!
The vendor appears to have been trying to hire to get a 5G high-band plan together. It has been advertising for a Millimeter Wave IC Research Scientist, who would "work closely with wireless research scientists in the lab to help bridge the gap to a 5th generation cellular future." (See Intel's Processor Boss Shares Lessons Learned.)
Even though commercial 5G services aren't expected to arrive until 2020, Intel will still be under the gun to develop a viable product line. 5G network testing is starting this year.
Widespread device availability typically lags early network deployments. It still takes years, however, to successfully design and deliver working silicon for next-generation wireless. Operators have already said that the miniaturization of 5G components and antennas is one of the biggest challenges facing this nascent industry now.
Intel, meanwhile, is not the only silicon vendor with its eyes on a 5G future. Samsung Corp. is arguably further down the path than Intel, showing off a Samsung Galaxy with a 60GHz module at Mobile World Congress this year, and developing devices for its 28GHz 5G test network. Qualcomm, meanwhile, is developing its own 5G strategy. (See Progressing Towards 5G: Qualcomm at MWC 2016 .)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading