Intel Continues Mobile Phone Push With 3G-Integrated SoC

Intel officials say the new system-on-a-chip will help bring 3G capabilities to entry-level mobile phones, drive down costs and make development easier.

Intel is taking another step in its mobile computing strategy with a new system-on-a-chip (SoC) design with integrated 3G power amplifiers that will target such markets as entry-level mobile phones and machine-to-machine systems.

Intel€™s SMARTi EU2p SoC integrates the 3G powe4r amplifiers and the company€™s 3G (High-Speed Packet Access, or HSPA) radio-frequency transceiver SMARTi EU2 onto a single 65-nanometer piece of silicon. Officials with the chip maker said the new technology will help create a smaller footprint than similar SoCs, reduce complexity for developers and drive down the total cost of ownership in entry-level phones and machine-to-machine (M2M) systems.

Product development will be simplified, and the number of components needed to make these products will be reduced, according to Stefan Wolff, vice president of the Intel Architecture Group and general manager of Multi-Com.

€œThis will allow our customers to introduce lower-cost 3G handsets and support the transition of the machine-to-machine market segment toward 3G-based connected devices to help enable the €˜Internet of things,€™€ Wolff said in a statement.

Intel officials expect samples to be sent to select customers early in the fourth quarter, and added that they will continue to work with power amplifier vendors to create similar solutions for smartphones and tablets.

Intel€™s x86-based processors dominate the traditional PC and server markets, and the company is now aggressively pushing into the mobile space, where its presence currently is limited. Most smartphones and tablets run on low-power non-x86 chips that are designed by ARM Holdings and manufactured by the likes of Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics, Texas Instruments and Nvidia.

Sales of mobile devices are booming while the PC market is stagnant, as consumers in particular are either opting instead to buy smartphones and tablets or are holding onto their technology dollars until systems running Microsoft€™s upcoming Windows 8 operating system are released in the fall.

Intel executives are expected to make inroads into the smartphone and tablet markets starting this year. Lenovo, Orange and Lava International, in India, this year have rolled out smartphones based on Intel€™s low-power Atom Z2460 Medfield processors, and officials with the chip maker said they expect more devices to launch later in the year.

They also are expecting Windows 8, which has been optimized for tablets, to be a catalyst for driving sales of Intel-based tablets powered by Atom or new 22nm Core processors.

In addition, Intel officials also are touting Ultrabooks, very light and thin laptops that combine capabilities from traditional notebooks with features found in tablets, including long battery life, instant-on and, in some systems, touch-screens. Already almost two dozen Ultrabooks are on the market based on Intel€™s 32nm Sandy Bridge chips from last year. Executives have said there are more than 140 designs expected this year that leverage Intel€™s new 22nm Ivy Bridge Core processors that not only will offer greater performance and energy efficiency, but also will help drive down Ultrabook prices to less than $700 for some designs.

Intel officials are still predicting that Ultrabooks will account for 40 percent of all notebooks sold by the end of the year.