Intel, Qualcomm Talk About Accelerating 5G Efforts at MWC 2018

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, rival chip makers Intel and Qualcomm unveil technologies and plans for 5G connectivity in devices ranging from PCs to smartphones.

Intel, Qualcomm 5G Wireless Efforts

Rivals Intel and Qualcomm each are putting a focus on 5G connectivity this week at Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, looking to gain an advantage in the emerging next generation of wireless connectivity and expanding the competitive ground between the two chip makers.

At the show, Intel officials said the company is working with PC OEMs Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft to bring 5G connectivity to Windows systems via the chip maker’s XMM 8000 series 5G modems, with the goal of bringing 5G PCs to market in the second half of 2019.

Intel also demonstrated a two-in-one system concept that uses a 5G modem, is powered by Intel’s Core i5 processors and will help form the foundation of future systems.

The unveiling of the 5G-connected concept PC came less than a week after Intel announced a collaboration with Chinese semiconductor company Unigroup Spectrum and RDA to develop a 5G smartphone platform for the China market that will include an Intel modem and will come out in 2019 when 5G networks will start going live. Intel officials talked about the 5G work the company did at the Olympics in South Korea and what to expect at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm officials at MWC launched its Snapdragon 5G Module solutions that are designed to help device makers more quickly commercialize 5G in smartphones and major verticals by putting more than 1,000 5G components into a few modules.

Through this modular approach, OEMs will be able to pull together a few modules rather than hundreds of components, which will simplify device designs, accelerate the time to commercialization and lower costs, according to Qualcomm officials.

“As 5G aims to vastly expand wireless enablement into new vertical markets, our 5G modules are designed to make it simple for newer entrants to take advantage of the promise of upcoming 5G networks and the new opportunities they will enable,” Roawen Chen, senior vice president at QCT global operations at Qualcomm, said in a statement.

Anticipation for 5G—the next generation of wireless protocol technology after 4G LTE—has been building for several years, and will continue to skyrocket as standards are set and networks begin going live over the next year or so.

At a time when the internet of things (IoT) continues to expand with tens of billions connected devices, with new systems and sensors expected worldwide by 2020 and video becomes ever more dominant network traffic, user demands for 5G gets louder.

Implementing 5G technology is expected to bring significant gains in both speed—as much as 10 to 100 times that of 4G networks—and greatly expanded network capacity, which will be needed to handle the devices and technologies coming down the road.

Carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are running 5G trials and are transforming their network infrastructures through software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) to adapt to 5G and the IoT. A broad array of tech companies, including Intel and Qualcomm, also are rolling out 5G product portfolios and partnering with carriers and other vendors.

Intel officials have been focusing on 5G development for the past few years, and in an internal memo to employees late last year, CEO Brian Krzanich said the wireless technology was going to continue to be a focus, along with other technologies such as the IoT, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and self-driving cars. It’s part of Intel’s larger push to find new growth markets and reduce its dependence on its core PC chip business.

“We’re just inches away from being a 50/50 company, meaning that half our revenue comes from the PC and half from new growth markets,” Krzanich wrote at the time. “In many of these new markets we are definitely the underdog. That’s an exciting challenge—it requires that we develop and use new, different muscles.”

Like Intel, Qualcomm also wants to expand into new spaces. The company, with its Arm-based Snapdragon systems-on-a-chip (SoCs), is the top mobile chip maker for such devices as smartphones and tablets. Now the company is pushing into such areas as data center servers, PCs and emerging areas including autonomous vehicles, AI and 5G, challenging Intel at each point.

The company’s 5G Module Solution integrates such components as application processors, baseband modems, memory, power management integrated circuits, and antennas into modules covering digital, radio frequency (RF), connectivity and front-end functionality. The 5G Module will sample in 2019, with Qualcomm officials saying the modular approach will help device makers reduce their design footprint by up to 30 percent over designs that use discrete components.