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Intel to roll out two LTE modems this year

Bites at Qualcomm's heels with support for 15 bands, with TDD and carrier aggregation to follow


Published: 20 August, 2013


Intel has been gaining a little ground in the mobile processor market, at last, with new and well regarded versions of Atom, but it has admitted it badly needs to add integrated LTE modems to match Qualcomm's all-in-one offerings for smartphones and tablets. That will not come until next year, but the world's largest chipmaker is taking a step in the right direction with the release of the XMM 7160, as multimode LTE modem which can work on as many as 15 LTE bands as well as 2G and 3G networks.

The product, from Intel's acquisition of Infineon Wireless, will soon be joined by reportedly more advanced LTE modem/RF transceiver offerings, including an LTE-A part, as a result of the US giant's recent acquisition of Fujitsu's US-based Semiconductor Wireless Products unit - described by analyst Will Strauss of Forward Concepts as having "probably the best standalone RF team in the world".

The XMM 7160 will differentiate itself with small size and low power consumption as well as flexibility, according to Intel, and Hermann Eul, general manager of the firm's mobile and communications group, says the former Infineon unit has grown up a lot under its new owner, moving from being a "fast follower" targeting mass volume 2G and 3G markets, to focusing on early mover advantage.

"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 told an analyst briefing,.

Qualcomm already sells multimode LTE chips for a large number of bands, but Intel is claiming a performance advantage together with 12% smaller size and 20% to 30% lower power consumption than rival products.

The first version will support Category 3 LTE (up to 100Mbps) and an update, to appear by year end, will move to Cat-4 or 150Mbps and will also support VoLTE. It may also add TD-LTE to support carriers like China Mobile and Sprint/Clearwire.

In parallel with the 7160, Intel has been developing the XMM 7260, which is due to ship in the first half of next year. This will support LTE-Advanced features like carrier aggregation, which Intel demonstrated on an evaluation board at the launch event. This chip will definitely add TD-LTE.

While the former Infineon unit currently has its products manufactured by foundry TSMC, Intel plans to bring this activity into its own fabs in order to reduce cost, increase control and ease integration with other product lines - the new Fujitsu additions, and with Atom for combined SoCs.

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