Intel took the wraps off some of its latest products for smartphones and other parts of the mobile infrastructure, as the company tries to keep up its challenge to dominant mobile chip maker Qualcomm.
One new modem chip for mobile devices will be able to reach gigabit-per-second speeds on current 4G LTE networks, matching the capability of a chip Qualcomm introduced last year. That’s as fast as the fastest home Internet connections. Other new Intel chips are aimed at providing the computing brains for low-powered mobile devices and connected devices for the growing Internet of things environment.
Although Intel has reached gigabit speeds, which can download a typical high-definition movie file in 30 seconds, a year later than Qualcomm, being late may not matter much to consumers. To hit that top speed requires that wireless carriers use several cutting-edge techniques in their network that are not yet commonly deployed.
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Intel’s new modem, called the XMM 7560, won’t be in production for phone manufacturers until the second half of this year.
Qualcomm isn’t standing still. Its year-old X16 modem, expected to be in phones introduced in 2017, can already hit 1 gigabit-per-second speeds. Qualcomm’s new X20 modem, also unveiled on Tuesday, can hit 1.2 Gbps. And while the newest Intel modem will be made on a 14-nanometer scale, the X20 will be made at 10 nm, making it potentially less costly and less energy-hungry.
Still, Intel is finally showing some progress after a terrible start in mobile. Last year, it won a big chunk of business from Apple for the first time, with modem chips in some versions of the iPhone 7.
“Traditionally we haven’t done that well,” Aicha Evans, senior vice president who runs Intel’s mobile effort, tells Fortune. “But we are very slowly and very carefully and very diligently furthering our positions there to the point now where we are at the table.”
And Apple (AAPL) and Qualcomm (QCOM) aren’t exactly buddy-buddy anymore, after Apple sued Qualcomm last month over patent royalties, opening the door for an even closer relationship with Intel. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich took Apple’s side of the argument in an interview on Sunday.
The new Intel modem is designed to work on current 4G LTE networks and has backward compatibility with older CDMA standards still in use by carriers like Verizon (VZ) and Sprint (S). Intel last month unveiled its latest product for upcoming, faster 5G networks, which could be 10 times faster or more than 4G but won’t be deployed for several years.
On Tuesday, Intel (INTC) also unveiled new chips in its Atom and Xeon processor families aimed at mobile wireless devices. The new Atom C3000 chip for low-power IoT devices can compute 2.3 times as fast as Intel’s older C2750, the company said. The new Xeon D-1500 is for routers, wireless base stations, and larger IoT devices.