Intel Continues Mobile Push With Deal for InterDigital Patents

Intel will gain patents around 3G, 4G LTE and WiFi technologies, the latest effort by the chip vendor to grow its wireless capabilities.

Intel's $375 million purchase of almost 1,700 wireless patents from InterDigital subsidiaries is the latest move by the giant chip maker to expand the capabilities of its upcoming processors, particularly in the mobile arena.

Officials with Intel and InterDigital announced the patents deal June 18, which brings money to InterDigital and gives Intel a host of patents that cover such areas as 3G networking, 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and 802.11 WiFi technologies.

The deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter, follows other acquisitions that Intel has made in recent years to bolster its efforts in the mobile device market, from buying Infineon Technologies€™ wireless chip business for $1.4 billion in 2010 to the $120 million it spent in January for video software and patents from RealNetworks.

In April, Intel announced it was spending $75 million to buy wireless patents from Aware, a small Massachusetts company. The patents touch on LTE, WiFi and home networking technologies. The same day, Intel officials said they were partnering with Chinese networking giant Huawei to build a testing and interoperability laboratory in that country. Through the deal, Intel will gain access to Huawei€™s networking infrastructure, enabling the chip vendor to test its mobile technology for LTE solutions.

The deal for InterDigital€™s patents fits in with Intel€™s larger efforts around wireless technologies, according to Doug Melamed, senior vice president and general counsel at Intel.

€œThese patents will support Intel's strategic investments in the mobile segment," Melamed said in a statement. "The addition of these patents expands our already large, strong and diverse portfolio of intellectual property."

The mobile device space€”including smartphones and tablets€”is a key growth area for Intel executives, who are looking to expand the business beyond the core PCs and servers. The company is looking to make inroads into a market that is dominated by low-power chips designed by ARM Holdings and manufactured by such companies as Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments.

Intel has made significant strides in this area this year, with several smartphones hitting the market based on the company€™s low-power Atom Z2460 Medfield processors. Intel also is expecting tablet makers to embrace the Atom and new Core Ivy Bridge chips, particularly after the upcoming release of Microsoft€™s Windows 8, which will be optimized for tablets. In addition, the company is making a push through the Ultrabook form factor it€™s championing.

Ultrabooks are extremely light and thin notebooks that offer many of the productivity capabilities of traditional laptops combined with features found in tablets, such as instant-on, constant connectivity, longer battery life and touch-screens. Almost two dozen Ultrabooks based on older Sandy Bridge Core chips are currently on store shelves, and Intel executives have said that as many as 100 new designs powered by Ivy Bridge chips are on the way.

ARM executives are not shying away from the challenge put forth by Intel. In May, ARM CEO Warren East told The Wall Street Journal that by 2014 or 2015, ARM will be a larger player in the PC space traditionally dominated by Intel than Intel will be in smartphones.