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Intel is going all-in on 5G networking, which will get us blazing fast wireless internet access. The world’s biggest chip maker is announcing a family of 5G radio modems that will be able to transfer data wirelessly at multiple gigabits per second when they debut in 2019.
Intel, Qualcomm, and others are predicting a 5G economy that will generate trillions of dollars in revenue over time, providing a foundation for wireless data in self-driving cars and replacing cable modems in our homes. That economy starts with the creation of chips that can handle the complex radio signals that will deliver 5G networking to consumers and businesses.
Intel is revealing its family of 5G modems, including the Intel XMM 8000 series, as well as its latest current-generation technology chip, the Intel XMM 7660 modem for existing LTE networks. Intel said that it has successfully made a 5G phone call based on its early prototypes, and its Intel XMM 7560 chip has reached gigabit-class speeds. Intel’s chips will hit the market in 2019, and broad deployment of 5G service is expected in 2020.
“Intel is helping build the 5G superhighway from network to cloud to client,” said Chenwei Yan, vice president and general manager of Intel’s client computing group, in a press briefing. “Intel is introducing a portfolio of products to accelerate that 5G future.”
Of course, 5G is more than just one chip. It requires a cloud-ready, virtualized 5G network. Intel is creating chips that can become the foundation for the network, cloud, and clients together in an end-to-end 5G solution.
“5G is so much more than a faster modem and a new air interface,” said Alex Quach, vice president and general manager of the 5G strategy and program office at Intel, in a press briefing. “Another piece that is essential is the network. 5G will unlock things that 4G LTE networks cannot do. 5G lets you slice the network so service providers can provide different levels of service, where they can target the internet of things, phone service, or enterprise service on top of the same network infrastructure.”
The Intel XMM 8000 series chips operate in the sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave spectrum bands around the world. These chips will enable a range of devices — from PCs and smartphones to fixed wireless consumer set-top boxes or cars — to connect to 5G networks. The first chip will be the Intel XMM 8060 5G modem, and it will be available in mid-2019.
“Today’s wireless networks are the equivalent of data driving down a single-lane highway; tomorrow’s will need to serve as a multi-lane superhighway as data moves at warp speed with 5G networks,” said Sandra Rivera, Intel senior vice president and general manager of the Network Platforms Group, in a statement. “Our roadmap progress shows how Intel is moving at gigabit speeds to help the industry create this superhighway and benefit from the speed, capacity, and low latency that 5G promises.”
Meanwhile, Intel is working on extending the capability of existing LTE networks. The Intel XMM 7660 for LTE networks delivers Cat-19 capabilities and supports speeds up to 1.6 gigabits per second. This LTE modem features advanced multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO), carrier aggregation, and a broad range of band support. It will ship in commercial devices in 2019.
Intel’s 5G prototype chips have made calls on the 28 GHz band, and the chips are being used in trials all over the world. Intel has 280 partners in its network builders program and more than 140 reference architecture designs. Yan said that 5G coverage won’t be complete when the networks debut in 2019 or 2020. This means the chips will fall back on legacy 4G, 3G, and 2G modes.
“Last week in Japan, we had a demo of a car driving 30 kilometers per hour and receiving data at gigabit speeds,” Quach said.
Yan said that Intel is introducing another LTE modem in 2019 because the 5G networks won’t be ubiquitous and there is still demand to improve the speeds of LTE devices, or the smartphones that we all use today.
Among the big uses for 5G networks will be “last mile replacement,” or using wireless networks to replace cable connections in our homes, Yan said.
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