BARCELONA – Intel Corp. is showing off in its booth at the Mobile World Congress a new mobile SoC chip developed by China’s Spreadtrum Communications.
Designated SC90861-IA, the new chip is based on Intel architecture, manufactured by Intel using its own 14nm LP process technology.
The SoC’s CPU inside comes from Intel. It’s based on Octa-Core 2GHz Intel Airmont architecture.
Meanwhile, the modem — designed to cover TD-LTE/FD-LTE/TD-SCDMA/WCDMA/GSM, LTE Category 7 (downlink offering 300Mbps, and uplink at 100Mbps) — comes from Spreadtrum.
Spreadtrum was responsible for integration and the overall design of the SoC, according to Intel.
The 64-bit Octa-core LTE SoC platform represents the first tangible result from Intel’s $1.5 billion investment in the Chinese outfit, showcasing the companies’ collaboration on a commercial chip three years in the making.
The SC90861-IA is already sampling, with its first customer scheduled to be announced in the second quarter this year. The first design win is a Chinese OEM planning to market the phone outside China, said Jimmy Zhang, senior product marketing manager at Intel.
Smartphone integrated with SC9861F-IA, shown at Intel's booth
(photo: EE Times)
Getting ready for Apple?
Spreadtrum’s new SoC is a big boost for Intel’s aspirations to be a big player in the foundry business. Thus far, Intel has been unable to win large customers to use its foundry service for commercial SoCs.
The real significance of this news is not necessarily the volume of production expected from Spreadtrum’s new chip, said an industry observer who spoke with EE Times on the condition of anonymity. Rather, this “paves the way for Intel to manufacture their own new XMM 7560 modem later this year in their own fab for the first time, targeting Apple.”
The XMM 7560, Intel’s fifth generation LTE modem, is the first to be manufactured based on Intel’s 14nm process.
For Spreadtrum, the project with Intel brings three blessings: “access to Intel’s foundry, strong IP and Intel is the only processor architecture company that has its own foundry,” Leo Li, chairman and CEO of Spreadtrum Communications, told EE Times two years ago.
In the SC90861-IA, Spreadtrum is using Intel CPU cores for the first time — all its other smartphone SoCs are based on ARM cores. Spreadtrum is also debuting Imagination’s PowerVR GT7200 GPU, instead of ARM’s Mali.
The other core that remains inside the SC90861-IA is CEVA’s DSP. Spreadtrum has used it for its LTE modem in every chip they make, including the new one.
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