SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Hoping to accelerate its resurgence in mobile, Intel announced plans at CES for a 5G modem for smartphones that will sample in the second half of this year. The x86 giant aims to attract design wins in top 2018 smartphones for the first modem made in its 14nm process.
The plan is an aggressive effort to be early with a chip that supports 3GPP 5G standards. Engineers attending those meetings say the first phase of the 5G standard won’t be formally approved until at least May 2018.
Intel is not alone in the rush to 5G. Its archrival Qualcomm announced late last year its X50 5G modem will sample in 2017. It uses eight 100-MHz channels, a 2x2 MIMO antenna array, adaptive beamforming techniques and 64 QAM to achieve a 90
dB link budget and works with separate 28 GHz transceiver and power management chips.
The chip vendors aim to enable carriers who are racing to be first with pre-standard services they will market as 5G.
“The operators are in a big hurry to announce they have 5G ahead of everyone else,” said Chris Taylor, director of wireless chip research at market watcher Strategy Analytics.
“I think fixed wireless access over millimeter wave frequencies will come first, claiming to be 5G ahead of the standard
, we saw this scenario with 4G,” Taylor said, noting regulators have not yet harmonized millimeterwave bands for 5G, though early trials generally are using 28 GHz.
Intel bought its way into the smartphone modem business when it acquired Infineon’s wireless group that had lost a design win in the iPhone. After a long absence, Intel has returned to the top five in baseband revenue share rankings according to a recent report from Strategy Analytics as a result of its design win in the Apple iPhone 7 last year.
Qualcomm currently ships about half of all LTE modem chips. Samsung and Mediatek follow with a total of about 35% unit share, and Intel trails at 4%, Strategy Analytics estimates.
“I personally think Qualcomm, Samsung and Intel will have an early lead in 5G chips for user equipment
, Mediatek hasn’t concentrated on 5G like the others,” said Taylor.
Next page: Modems leapfrog from 28nm to 14nm
Intel’s Gold Ridge modem will work with separate RF ICs at 28 GHz and less than 6 GHz. (Image: Intel)