Intel targets wireless base station silicon leadership in 2021

Intel on Monday unveiled new silicon products built for 5G network infrastructure, including a 10nm system-on-chip for wireless base stations that it says should push Intel into the leading market position in 2021.

The Intel Atom P5900 platform is expected to be used by major telecom equipment vendors including Ericsson, Nokia and ZTE, according to Intel. With positive response from heavy-hitting customers such as those, Intel now expects to capture 40% of the market share one year earlier than its previous 2022 forecast.

In a video describing the new platform, Navin Shenoy, EVP and general manager of the Data Platforms Group at Intel said the integrated SoC was built for 5G networks’ high bandwidth and low latency needs, combining “compute, 100 gigabits of connectivity and acceleration into a single SoC.”

“It delivers a performance punch in packet security throughput and improved packet balancing throughput versus using software alone,” said Shenoy in the promo.

This is Intel’s introduction into high-volume silicon for radio access networks, with 6 million 5G base stations forecasted through 2024.

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“As the industry makes the transition to 5G, we continue to see network infrastructure as the most significant opportunity, representing a $25 billion silicon opportunity by 2023,” said Shenoy in a statement. “By offering customers the fastest and most effective path to design, deliver and deploy 5G solutions across core, edge and access, we are poised to expand our leading silicon position in this growing market.”

Intel said its new products are also compatible with solutions served by virtualized RAN (vRAN), pointing to significant traction with operators like China Mobile, China Telecom, Rakuten and Telefonica who are pushing ahead with trials and early deployments.

In addition to its wireless base station SoC, Intel unveiled second-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors; its first structured ASIC for 5G network, code name “Diamond Mesa;” and its Ethernet 700 series 5G-optimized network adapter (to enter production in Q2 2020). More info on those here.

In April 2019, Intel surprised when it announced plans to exit the 5G smartphone modem business, but stressed it would continue to invest in its 5G network infrastructure business. Intel was expected to supply chips for Apple’s first 5G iPhone as the handset maker was embroiled in a legal spat with Intel rival Qualcomm at the time.

Qualcomm and Apple settled litigation the same day as Intel’s 5G smartphone exit and Apple ended up purchasing Intel’s modem business last year for $1 billion