(Image courtesy of Intel).

Intel Lays Out Ammunition in Fight with Qualcomm Modems

Intel announced a new series of 5G wireless modems on Thursday that will be available in around a year and a half. The new series of chips, called XMM 8000, will support multiple gigabits-per-second speeds.

Intel is laying out the ammunition with which it plans to challenge Qualcomm, which has been ironing out the kinks in its prototype 5G modem. Intel has already taken advantage of Qualcomm’s woes with both customers and antitrust regulators, poaching orders of cellular modems that Apple previously sourced only from Qualcomm.

Intel declined to detail the performance of the new chips, which can connect everything from smartphones and tablets to sensors and cars. The silicon squares operate in both sub-6 GHz bands and millimeter waves like 28 GHz. They will support the 5G standard to be approved next month after a complex process led by Qualcomm engineer Wanshi Chen.

Intel’s first chip, called XMM 8060, will be available in the middle of 2019, while the new network infrastructure for 5G networks is expected to be installed starting in 2020. But because it could take many years to create widespread coverage, Intel’s modems can also fall back onto 2G, 3G, and 4G networks.

“Today’s wireless networks are the equivalent of data driving down a single-lane highway; tomorrow’s will need to serve as a multilane superhighway as data moves at warp speed with 5G,” said Sandra Rivera, general manager of Intel’s network platform group, in a statement. Intel has partnered with companies like Ericsson and Verizon in trials to properly prepare its chips for 5G.

Intel’s announcement comes more than a month after Qualcomm trumpeted the performance of its own 5G modem, which it claims will start shipping in smartphones within two years. Qualcomm recently the modem at download rates around 1.2 gigabits per second amid months of legal volleyball with Apple.

Intel also provided the spark for Qualcomm’s latest lawsuit against Apple, which allegedly roped an Intel engineer into a confidential email about source code that help in the integration of Qualcomm’s basebands. Bloomberg reports that Apple is planning iPhones and iPads for next year without Qualcomm’s modems, opting instead for Intel and Mediatek chips.

In the same announcement, Intel said that it had built a 4G modem that operates at 1.6 gigabits per second, and it will be used in commercial devices by 2019. For 5G, both Intel and Qualcomm are targeting a bandwidth of five gigabits per second, which would be around two orders of magnitude faster than what a typical smartphone does today.

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