August 19, 2013, 9:32 PM — Intel plans to become a leader in wireless and will ship its first multimode LTE processor later this month as part of that drive.
The XMM 7160, a modem chip for mobile devices, can be equipped to work on as many as 15 LTE spectrum bands as well as on 2G and 3G networks. Multimode capability between 2G, 3G and 4G is a necessity for smartphones because most operators with LTE still rely on older technologies in parts of their service areas, and for voice calls. Intel discussed the chip earlier this year but announced on Monday that it will ship this month.
Intel is still an underdog in the mobile industry but sees itself as one of just a handful of potential rivals to the dominant Qualcomm. At the core of Intel's mobile device push is the former Infineon wireless business, which it acquired in 2010.
While Infineon was a "fast follower" in mobile, intentionally timing its products for when commercial volumes were starting to ship, it's been moving toward market leadership since the acquisition, said Hermann Eul, vice president and general manager of Intel's mobile and communications group.
"For us, it is the clear strategy, the clear plan, to go into a leadership position, and we are currently in the transition to do that," Eul said. He spoke on Monday at a press and analyst briefing at Intel headquarters.
Intel painted itself as a force that can make the mobile chip industry more competitive and help to drive technology forward. Device makers, mobile operators and other players are counting on that, according to Aicha Evans, vice president and general manager of wireless platform R&D.
"This is the first time that I've been at Intel working at anything, that the industry is actively rooting for us to succeed ... because of diversity in this market," said Evans, who has been at Intel for seven years.
Qualcomm already sells multimode LTE chips for a large number of bands, but Intel claims the 7160 has a performance edge over the competition. It's 12 percent smaller than rival products and consumes 20 percent to 30 percent less power, the company said.
Support for multiple LTE bands is important because there are about 40 different spectrum bands allocated for the high-speed mobile data system around the world. Phones may need many different bands in order to allow international roaming on LTE, and being able to pack in many frequencies can also save device makers money.
With the 7160, a device maker could have a single chip for phones sold all over the world, said Thomas Lindner, senior director in the mobile and communications group. The 15 bands that it can support are not set in stone but can be configured for particular manufacturers, he said.