Intel Debuts 5G Chips for Servers and Base Stations

Telecom Tech Outlook | Wednesday, February 26, 2020

U.S. chip giant Intel has entered 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 vital partners take on Chinese rival Huawei Technologies

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

"The Intel Atom P5900 will start being deployed this year as a key component of 5G base stations," said Daniel Rodriguez, Intel corporate vice president, "Ericsson and ZTE have announced that they will use the Atom P5900 in their base stations."

Intel aims to become the market leader with a 40 percent share of the market for base station silicon chips by 2021, a year earlier than the company's previous estimate.

Intel, the world's biggest computer and server microprocessor builder, lagged behind developers such as Arm Holdings and Qualcomm in smartphone chips and has faced mounting competition from smaller rival Advanced Micro devices in its current businesses. As such, it’s aggressive advances into telecom equipment chips is an attempt to secure new sources of growth.

The move also gives a push to the 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. But the U.S. did not have a single company that possesses the capability to build both advanced consumer electronics and core telecom equipment.

Until now, Ericsson and Nokia have designed their own chips in-house and also asked developers such as Broadcom to help develop base station chips. While Huawei designs their chips in-house and has TSMC to manufacture them. Samsung, which is also the world's biggest memory chipmaker, designs and manufactures its 5G base station chips itself.

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

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