Even though it sold its 5G smartphone modem team and IP portfolio to Apple, Intel suggested there was a possibility it would still produce 5G modems for PCs. That doesn’t appear to be the case today, as rival MediaTek announced Intel will use its 5G modem in PCs — a component MediaTek developed itself, and will be using partners to manufacture.
According to MediaTek, Dell and HP will be early customers for the combined Intel-MediaTek 5G solution, with laptops slated to hit the market in early 2021. Intel had previously suggested that 5G-capable PCs with its chips would be ready for the 2019 holiday season — Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft were all on board at that time — though it’s highly likely that the transfer of its 5G assets had an impact on the prior timetable.
The 5G PC modem will be “based in part” on the Helio M70, which was developed for 5G smartphones. MediaTek has already announced a 5G system-on-chip (SoC) solution under the name 5G SoC, combining modem, CPU, GPU, and AI functionality within a single die to improve power efficiency. It’s unclear what impact the separate Intel processor and Helio M70-based solution will have on battery life.
“Our 5G modem for PCs, developed in partnership with Intel, is integral to making 5G accessible and available across home and mobile platforms,” explained MediaTek president Joe Chen. “5G will usher in the next era of PC experiences, and working with Intel, an industry leader in computing, highlights MediaTek’s expertise in designing 5G technology for global markets.”
Intel’s former key rival, Qualcomm, has developed chips such as Snapdragon 8cx processors that compete directly against Intel’s Core i-series CPUs in the light, power-efficient laptop market. Lenovo and Microsoft have both announced thin and light devices with Qualcomm processors inside. Although MediaTek is selling similar chips, they haven’t been targeted at the PC market, instead going into phones, tablets, media streamers, and other non-competitive devices.