Watch out, Qualcomm.
Intel on Wednesday morning dropped a bombshell pre-CES announcement with the unveiling of a new 5G modem equipped with compatibility for both 28 GHz airwaves and sub-6 GHz frequencies.
According to a release from the company, the new modem – nicknamed “Goldridge” – will pair up with the company’s previously announced sub-6 GHz and 28 GHz Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits (RFICs) as well as LTE modems for 4G fallback, and boast support for key 3GPP 5G NR technologies like low latency structure, advanced channel coding, massive MIMO, and beamforming.
“We believe that this will be the world’s first global 5G modem that supports both sub-6 and 28 GHz,” Asha Keddy, Vice President and General Manager of Intel’s Communications and Devices Group, told Wireless Week. “Given 3GPP 5G NR is not defined, the standards are still being defined, it supports a combination of industry forum leadership specifications that many operators such as Verizon or KT have done. But it also supports the global 3GPP new radio technology features that have been defined and will continue to be defined.”
Keddy noted Goldridge has been successfully tested in both CPE and portable configurations, and Intel anticipates the modem will be used for early 5G deployments in use cases ranging from automotive and home broadband to mobile devices and more. In fact, Keddy revealed Intel is already working with a number of handset vendors and automotive partners, but declined to disclose any names. She did, however, point to number of 5G collaboration announcements made at Mobile World Congress 2016 that included players like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, and ZTE.
Intel also announced a new 5G transceiver with sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave support. The transceiver will feature ultra-wideband operation with up to 800 MHz of operational bandwidth and support for massive MIMO and dual-polarization.
The system, Keddy noted, is capable of supporting 5 Gbps.
According to Intel’s press release, the transceiver’s sub-6 GHz support will initially span the range from 3.3-4.2 GHz, though Keddy noted more bands in both the sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave frequencies will be added later.
The announcements come just a few months after Qualcomm announced its own 5G modem for smartphones and other devices at its 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong. Dubbed the Snapdragon X50, Qualcomm’s modem includes support for 28 GHz spectrum, as well as MIMO antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking. As with Intel’s setup, Qualcomm’s modem is capable of peak download speeds of 5 Gbps with 800 MHz of bandwidth support.
But Keddy said Intel’s 5G modem and transceiver are special because they will help companies overcome the challenge of propagation in the millimeter wave bands by combining those with the sub-6 GHz airwaves, which provide better coverage to complement the capacity in the higher bands.
“We really think this combination means that not only can you fall back to LTE when you need to, if need be it can be deployed standalone,” Keddy observed. “The good thing about deploying standalone is that we start activating on 5G and start getting much more than just a smartphone or a handset … it opens up different opportunities.”
Samples for Intel’s 5G transceiver will be available this month, but it will take more time for companies to get their hands on the 5G modem, which is slated to become available for samples in the second half of the year.
According to Keddy, the modem and transceiver are part of a broader push at Intel to focus on 5G.
“We have drastically changed our philosophy on 5G. We’ve had a lot of painful and constructive lessons from the past, so we were very determined to make an early investment,” Keddy said. “We are doing this very differently because we have learned a lot of good things from our WiGig millimeter wave operation, which also had a lot of the same challenges. We’ve also learned the importance of working with the incumbents in this $3 trillion dollar ecosystem.”