With the roll-out of 4G LTE nearly complete in major markets of the globe, the next major advancement in telecommunication is 5G. As such, leaders in the wireless industry such as Qualcomm and Intel haven’t stood still. Qualcomm’s X50 5G modem is slated to be released next year, and some 5G networks are slated to go live in 2019, with a broad roll-out happening in 2020. Intel trialed a 5G modem earlier this year, and now the company is back with multiple announcements in the field of modems, including its first commercial 5G modem.
Intel has announced the Intel XMM 8000 series, which is its first family of 5G new radio (5G NR) multi-mode commercial modems. The XMM 8060 is the first modem of the XMM 8000 series. The company also announced its latest LTE modem, the Intel XMM 7660, which will be made available in 2019.
The US chip maker also announced that it has successfully completed a full end-to-end 5G call based on its early 5G silicon, the 5G Modem, which was announced earlier this year. To complete the list of announcements, the XMM 7560 modem unveiled at MWC 2017 is said to have achieved gigabit-class speeds.
“Intel is committed to delivering leading 5G multi-mode modem technology and making sure the transition to 5G is smooth. Our investments in a full portfolio of modem technologies and products are critical to achieving the vision of seamless 5G connectivity.”
Dr. Cormac Contry, Intel Corporate Vice President
To go through the announcements one-by-one, let’s look at the Intel XMM 8000 series, which is a family of commercial 5G multi-mode modems. The series will operate in both sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave global spectrum bands. The company says the series will enable a range of devices from PCs and phones to vehicles and fixed wireless consumer premise equipment to connect to 5G networks.
The Intel XMM 8060 is the company’s first commercial 5G modem, which makes it a competitor to Qualcomm’s X50 modem. It is capable of delivering multi-mode support for the full 5G non-standalone and standalone NR, as well as various 2G, 3G and 4G legacy modes. This is important as 5G availability will not be available everywhere all at once, and it will take years for its roll-out to complete, just like how it took years for 4G LTE to be adopted throughout the globe.
The XMM 8060 is expected to ship in commercial customer devices in mid-2019, according to Intel. The company says it will “accelerate deployment of 5G-ready devices prior to […] broad deployment of 5G networks in 2020“.
Intel has kept on developing LTE modems as well. The company was years late in the integrated LTE modems game, and therefore it cannot match Qualcomm in terms of the number of customer devices using its modems. However, the new XMM 7660 hopes to make up for the chip maker’s mistakes in the past. The XMM 7660 is the company’s latest LTE modem, and it delivers Cat-19 capabilities (speeds up to 1.6Gbps are supported). It features MIMO, carrier aggregation and a broad range of band support. Intel says it will ship in commercial devices in 2019.
The company also confirmed that its early 5G silicon – the Intel 5G Modem – which was announced at CES 2017 is now successfully making calls over the 28GHz band.
Intel noted that its technology is used in dozens of 5G trials in the globe, which is a valuable learning experience for itself. It concluded by predicting that Wi-Fi would play an important role for mobile networks in the transition to 5G. Intel plans to commercialize gigabit Wi-Fi soon and also has plans to deliver the next generation of Wi-Fi – 802.11ax starting in 2018.
It must be noted that the company missed out on the mobile SoC business as it canceled its Atom series of mobile chipsets in 2016. Therefore, Intel doesn’t have a major role in the mobile world in the short-term, but the company is certainly preparing itself for the next bend in the road – 5G.