Intel Accelerates Launch Of Its 5G Modem For Android Phones

The launch of Intel's XMM 8160 5G modems has been moved forward by more than six months and the modules will now be in smartphones, PCs, and other electronics by the first half of 2020, the company said this week. Set to be available to manufacturers as of the second half of the next year, the modem supports multimode operations and peak speeds of up to 6 gigabits per second via 5G. Moreover, with optimizations to take advantage of both millimeter wave and sub-6GHz spectrum, with supported networking technologies including 4G LTE - both FDD and TDD bands), 3G, and 2G legacy radios, the all-in-one chipset measures in at smaller than a US penny. That means the XMM 8160 5G modem will support transitions between the upcoming 5G networks and those where 5G isn't quite ready yet and that it allows for worldwide carrier support across a huge number of use cases at the global scale.

Background: Prior to the announcement, Intel had been pushing for commercialization in 2020 and the new timeline moves things forward by more than a half-year. That's good news for the long-time chipset and component manufacturer since at least one of its leading competitors in the space, namely Qualcomm, has been making plenty of headway in the industry as well. Although Qualcomm was already able to announce a similar design back in June, that particular set of solutions - the QTM052 mmWave antenna module and QPM56xx sub-6 GHz RF module - is only "compatible" with the long-expected Snapdragon X50 5G modem. That means it isn't necessarily including everything in a single multimode modem chip. The company has pressed forward regardless, including at least one recently announced partnership with Samsung that will result in that company expanding its networking portfolio with new small cell tech based on Qualcomm's offering. Intel, for its part, says that its own solution for next-generation 5G networking already has worldwide carrier support and platform certifications across a broad spectrum. That is in addition to the firm assertion that it has support from a "broad" number of OEMs. The company has not provided any details regarding exactly who its current partners are or which devices the modems will be used in.

Impact: However, that doesn't mean Intel is without an edge there in spite of the fact that, historically, Qualcomm has held an incredible amount of pull in the mobile industry. To begin with, the companies strengths have primarily in computers, laptops, and other connected hardware, which is a completely separate industry. With that said, its all-in-one networking module will also likely be attractive to customers since Qualcomm has recently been embroiled in court battles over its licensing practices. More succinctly, the San Diego-based OEM has faced scrutiny over allegedly forcing partners and customers to buy into its entire ecosystem and for pricing those deals based on the overall cost of a finished product as well. The scalability of Intel's new solution and Qualcomm's current predicament, in combination with its newly announced launch window, could give the new Intel XMM 8160 5G modems a serious boost across nearly every technology sector.

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