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Intel’s 5G hardware and network infrastructure

February 25, 2020 / Oshine Tripura
SHARESHARESHARE

  • Intel made a sweeping set of hardware and software announcements, including the launch of the new Intel® Atom™ P5900.

  • U.S. Attorney General William Barr called for America to take controlling stakes in leading European telecom equipment makers Ericsson and Nokia to compete with Huawei's "drive to domination."

  • Intel’s first integrated 5G base station chips is said to adopt the company's advanced 10-nanometer chip production technology and will be available this year.


The U.S. chip giant Intel has announced its entry into the 5G base station chip race with bold ambitions to be the market leader by 2021, in a bid to help telecom equipment maker Ericsson and other key partners take on Chinese rival Huawei Technologies.
 

The Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker on Monday introduced its first ever 5G integrated chip platform -- the Atom P5900 -- for use in base stations, the backbone of wireless communications infrastructure, as well as a series of related customized chips for next-generation communication technology.
 

Unlocking the full potential of 5G requires transforming network infrastructure from core to edge. As the world’s leading network silicon provider, Intel is at the forefront of driving this transformation. The company made a sweeping set of hardware and software announcements, including the launch of the new Intel® Atom™ P5900, a 10nm system-on-a-chip (SoC) for wireless base stations, which is a critical early deployment target for 5G networks.
 

The American chipmaker's move also gives a boost to U.S. efforts to build up its prowess in 5G, the key battleground in the Washington-Beijing tech war. Huawei --which U.S. authorities have repeatedly flagged as a security risk -- develops its own 5G chips for both smartphones and networking equipment.
 

The U.S., on the other hand, did not have a single company that possesses the capability to build both advanced consumer electronics and core telecom equipment.
 

Learn more: Presidential advisers set timeline for report on options to secure 5g networks
 

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General William Barr called for America to take controlling stakes in leading European telecom equipment makers Ericsson and Nokia to compete with Huawei's "drive to domination." Huawei last week said it has maintained its leadership in building 5G communication equipment and has secured more than 90 commercial 5G contracts globally. The Chinese company is slated to unveil its second generation of 5G foldable smartphones despite Washington's blacklist blocking its access to Google Mobile Service.
 

Intel announced that it will built three chips built for various types of 5G computers, plus a 5G-optimized network adapter for PCs. Up first is an updated second-generation Xeon Scalable processor, now at a top speed of 3.9GHz and bolstered by additional AI capabilities to aid with inference applications. The new chip promises up to 36% more performance than the first-generation version, with up to 42% more performance per dollar, though early second-generation chips were introduced in April 2019.
 

Intel says the Xeon Scalable is the “only CPU with AI built in” — a pitch that’s not exactly accurate, given the range of existing laptop and mobile CPUs with AI features, but one Intel further explains means “the only CPU on the market that features integrated deep learning acceleration.” Xeon Scalable’s Deep Learning Boost feature set promises up to 6 times more AI performance than AMD’s Rome processors, though Intel won’t quantify the number of TOPS available for AI processing, calling the metric “theoretical.” Regardless, Intel says Xeon Scalable will support the cloud AI needs of Alibaba, AWS, Baidu, Microsoft, and Tencent, as well as other major companies.
 

“We are providing a broad product suite to really transform 5G networks from the base station, all the way up to the autonomous cars and to the industries and manufacturing sites, where we need to build on 5G to make sure we can fully automate factories.”

-Matthew Penny, Sales Account Manager, Intel


Intel said its first integrated 5G base station chips will adopt the company's advanced 10-nanometer chip production technology and will be available this year. However, Intel has suffered manufacturing constraints since the second half of 2018 due to a bottleneck in its newest 10-nm chip manufacturing technology and its deal to supply modem chips for iPhones. Many computer makers such as Asustek Computer and Acer suffered shortages of central processing units for more than a year and have turned to Intel's smaller rival AMD for processor chips.

 

Intel CEO Bob Swan in January told investors that it will continue increasing capital expenditure to solve the supply shortage issue.
 

“We're continuing to add capacity so we're not constraining our customers' growth. ... Our near-term challenge is working with our customers to support their desired product mix.”

-Bob Swan, CEO, Intel


Intel last year sold its smartphone modem business to Apple for $1 billion and officially dropped out of the mobile modem business.

 

Learn more: Apple to design its own 5G antenna enabled iphones in 2020
 

That means the networking equipment sector could be one of the last chances for the U.S. chip titan to capitalize on the 5G boom. Last November, Intel teamed up with MediaTek, the world's second-largest mobile chipmaker after Qualcomm, to jointly develop 5G-capable laptops.
 

About Intel:

 

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), a leader in the semiconductor industry, is shaping the data-centric future with computing and communications technology that is the foundation of the world’s innovations. The company’s engineering expertise is helping address the world’s greatest challenges as well as helping secure, power and connect billions of devices and the infrastructure of the smart, connected world – from the cloud to the network to the edge and everything in between. Find more information about Intel at newsroom.intel.com and intel.com.