US moves to expand domestic chip making capability

As global commercial Balkanisation ramps, countries are seeking to make themselves as self-sufficient as possible.

The coronavirus pandemic, and the consequent global shortage of things like personal protective equipment, has brought to a head how dangerous it is to be reliant on other countries for essential kit. The mounting hostility between the US and China, coupled with the fact that much of the world’s manufacturing takes place in China, has served to further stoke concern.

Now we have reports that the US government is in talks with two of the world’s biggest semiconductor manufacturers – Intel and TSMC – to build new fabs in the US. Intel has confirmed it’s in discussions with the Defense Department about improving domestic technology sources, while TSMC has confirmed it has been chatting to the Commerce Departments, but not what they discussed.

Intel has fabs in ten different locations, five of which are already in the US and only one of which is in China. As the name Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company implies, most of TSMC’s fabs are located in Taiwan, but it does have a couple in China and one in the US. In the case of Intel, the US government seems to want a fab that it can call upon to ensure supply of chips in the worst-case scenarios.

The TSMC angle is more intriguing. On a practical level it’s the world leader mobile chip manufacture, an area in which Intel has shown impressively consistent ineptitude. As smartphones have become the single most important smart device, a major interruption to their supply chain would be a significant blow to consumers, businesses and governments alike.

But the really juicy aspect concerns China’s relationship with Taiwan, which it insists is part of China. The Taiwanese people and government beg to differ and the country is a consequently key pawn in many of the geopolitical games China and the US like to play with each other. Persuading TSMC to significantly expand its presence in the US would be a major symbolic victory and seriously antagonise the Chinese Communist Party, which President Trump may consider to be reason enough alone.

The Balkanisation megatrend this would appear to be following raises at least a couple of major issues. Firstly a lot more redundancy looks set to be built into supply chains, as companies and countries wean themselves off just-in-time imports. Secondly the west seems set to adopt an ‘if you can’t beat em, join em’ approach with respect to Chinese subsidising of domestic companies to give them significant advantages over foreign ones.

While this will improve supply chain security, it will also raise prices as companies pass on the additional cost of having to make more stuff themselves and no longer being able to import wage deflation from China. It also seems to herald a permanent enlargement of the state through a greater involvement in the private economy. The cost of this ultimately has to be faced by taxpayers, so it looks like the cost of living is set to be significantly higher for the foreseeable future.

5G enabling a new data-driven business model

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Alex Gledhill, Global Account Director, Intel UK, looks at how 5G could transform the commercial use of data.

The coming of 5G will prove transformative for global enterprise. Through 5G network adoption, long-awaited solutions to a range of shortcomings in key communications technologies will emerge. And the limitations of technology to contribute to business development and performance will be turned on its head.  Reflecting this expectation, a recent telecoms report predicts that a third of mobile operators will deploy 5G standalone within two years. But significantly it also indicates that half of operators intend to migrate to a common data layer for their network functions as they roll out their 5G offering.

New data model

The adoption of a common data model by operators is indicative of where the fifth generation of wireless communications technologies will prove truly transformative. The unprecedented connectivity inherent in 5G will serve to generate, active and integrate business data to a previously impossible extent. This is apparent in the direction of travel for network architecture. The common data model will enable essential business data across areas including device engagement, network services, subscriptions and connectivity. It will also facilitate integration for data storage and access like never before. And this new data-driven model will represent an essential business enabler though access to new revenue streams across the telecoms space.

Next generation mobile

First generation mobile technology was all about connecting people but had little data-generating capability. This has transformed over the past decades with mobile technology evolving into a data conduit. The sector’s essential priorities have shifted to include the provision of a constant streams of diverse information and content to users. In turn, consumers themselves have become generators of unprecedented quantities and new forms of data. This dynamic is set to be supercharged across mobile with the rollout of 5G. As the promise of 5G takes hold, our customers are demanding the increased performance and flexibility they need to rapidly deliver services with lower latency where it is needed most. To help Intel has created a portfolio for 5G network infrastructure development, including critical components for early 5G network deployment, which are enabling businesses to future-proof their offering in the face of 5G-driven transformation. The resulting availability of enhanced mobile broadband (e-MBB) will be among the key results.

In this context, uptake use cases will include the harnessing of 5G’s ground-breaking connectivity to stream even higher quality video across expanding markets. And in terms of addressing the limitations of existing infrastructure technology, eMBB will expand service coverage across wide areas and address perennial problem points such as stadiums, housing complexes and shopping centres. And a direct implication of this infrastructure improvement will be a significant increase in the amounts of data used and generated by consumers. People will be empowered to generate and share whatever content they want, anywhere, and at any time.

The operational implications of this development will be seismic for mobile providers servicing the TikTok generation. Verizon, the US network provider and Intel partner, were early in recognising the transformative potential of 5G. The company is rapidly rolling out 5G Ultra-Wideband services in the US. It was first operator to offer Intel-enabled 5G home services and achieved a global industry-first with the 5G network edge computing. Directing the power of the cloud closer to mobile, Verizon is anticipating an array of new and previously unimagined use cases and connecting evermore devices at the edge of its Ultra-Wideband network.

Data-rich customers  

For mobile operators and entrepreneurs across the telecoms space, the coming of 5G will bring a diverse range of operational improvements, which will serve to enhance their offering to customers. Such advancements will include faster network and data speeds, greater energy efficiency, lower latency, and increased bandwidths. In the broader sense, the improvements to network infrastructure will mean fundamental consumer behavioural change, with traditional broadband practices increasingly happening across mobile networks. Fundamental to this shift will be the capacity of 5G to significantly improve the efficiency of data transmission. Commercially, this will represent a game-changing advantage for operators. A more efficient network means cheaper by the bit data. And the passing of this benefit to consumers represent a new era of data-generated business opportunities and trends across multiple sectors.

Data-fuelled business

Exploring the applications potential of 5G in entertainment, a report from Intel predicts a radical redefinition in business models and the emergence of multiple new immersive, interactive and data-generating customer experiences. For instance, 5G is predicted to generate more than $140 billion in revenue from augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) application between 2021 and 2028. And the data-generating potential from new use cases across this spectrum is multifaceted. In the case of AR, it will create a new way for consumers to connect with media through virtual tools, scenarios and characters. Users will also have unprecedented engagement with augmented contextual information. And AR well facilitate previously unimagined communications channels between content creators and their audiences. This amounts to a new 5G-powered data-generating enterprise paradigm.

Now commonly referred to as industry 4.0, this new business epoch will generate, and be fuelled by, previously unimaginable levels of smart data. In this context, 5G represents a virtual data network – enabling a fully connected and intelligent global society. Moreover, the essence of 5G is intelligent connectivity. And mobile networks in the coming decade will connect ever increasing number of smart devices – helping to make the much-mooted internet of things (IoT) a realised fact.

From 5G to the Edge

A business landscape redefined by 5G will present myriad opportunities for operators and enterprises across the telecoms space. And the integration accessible through supercharged connectivity will result in the most powerful unified communications platform seen to date. It will also supercharge the growing smart digital services space as digitised communications reach new sectors and markets.

Rakuten mobile, the Japanese operator and Intel partner, recognised the need for a fundamental redesign of its network platform in anticipation of the opportunities 5G will bring. This encompassed the development of fully virtualised end-to-end cloud network architecture. And with separate built in user and data planes, its network is now ready to embrace multiple new use cases – with further confidence drawn from the benefit of its future-proofed edge architecture. And through the adoption of Intel’s data centre processors for cross network functionality, Rakuten is guaranteed agility, efficiency, flexibility and capacity to pass cost benefits onto its customers in Japan.

As in the case of Rakuten, the capability of mobile operators and businesses to capitalise in this rapidly evolving world of 5G-powered smart data will ultimately depend on their ability to think ahead and adopt. The rates of adoption of a common data model by operators is encouraging in this regard. But in the wider sense, businesses will have to go further and faster to develop software-defined networks and cloud-based ecosystems for essential scalability and flexibility in the face of a 5G-driven data-defined world.

What a Wonderful World of 5G Devices

Many brands have already brought to market large numbers of 5G devices, such as smartphones and hotspots. According to the latest tracking done by the GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association), an industry organisation, over 250 devices had been announced by mid-March 2020, with 67 of them commercially available, including 40 smartphones. Half a year previously, the same tracking recorded only 100 public device announcements, with only nine 5G smartphones commercially available. The pace of new 5G device launches has clearly been accelerating.

(Here we are sharing the opening section of this Telecoms.com Intelligence special briefing to look into how 5G operators and device makers can work together to deliver a win-win solution to grow the 5G ecosystem.

The full version of the report is available for free to download here.)

Consumers Love 5G Smartphones, or Do They?

Even in the midst of the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19, the smartphone marketplace has been busy. A number of flagship 5G smartphones have been launched by companies like Samsung and Huawei as well as their challengers, most of which had been meant to be unveiled at this year’s Mobile World Congress that did not happen. Many companies have moved their launch events online.

Consumers have signed up to 5G services faster than they did 4G. South Korea clocked up 5 million 5G subscribers by the end of 2019, eight months after the three operators switched on their 5G networks. China’s total number of 5G subscribers topped 10 million by the end of 2019, only two months after the three operators launched 5G in the world’s biggest smartphone market. China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator by subscriber number, reported that it had attracted 15.4 million 5G customers by the end of February, four months after launch. Despite that few if any other operators have published their 5G subscriber numbers, the momentum is there.

So far, 5G device shipment numbers have been strong. The research firm Strategy Analytics estimated that 19 million 5G smartphones were shipped in 2019. This was higher than most analysts had expected. So, at the first sight at least, consumers have shown strong enthusiasm in embracing 5G smartphones. Meanwhile, some evidence is showing that consumers have bought 5G smartphones not necessarily for 5G, or at least not the 5G the industry professionals would define it.

A research recently published by the software company Amdocs found that over a third of British consumers are interested in upgrading to 5G devices this year, but most of them are not sure what 5G is all about. The minority of consumers that claimed to know 5G would primarily cite faster internet. However, if the consumers take operators’ “gigabit speed” promise literally, they will be disappointed.

The network benchmarking and testing firm Global Wireless Solutions conducted a field test of the 5G networks in the centre of London towards the end of last year. The highest download speed of 470 Mbps was recorded on EE network, while the lower speeds of 330 Mbps and 320 Mbps were recorded on O2 and Vodafone networks respectively. These numbers, in addition to falling far short of “gigabit”, could only be achieved if the customer stood next to the base stations. Even those consumers well versed enough to quote buzz words like “low latency” would also be disappointed. The Global Wireless Solutions tests have found no meaningful improvement in latency from 4G connectivity.

This is an indication that the success to expand 5G adoption from early adopters to early majority is far from certain. While operators are honing their skills to convince consumers of 5G benefits, device makers, in particular smartphone brands, would also have much to lose if consumer enthusiasm should dampen by the underwhelming experience and patchy coverage.

To explore the topic further, the rest of this report first discusses what operators are looking for in 5G devices. We then analyse the key drivers for higher consumer adoption of 5G devices, including the underlying technologies. The report concludes by looking at the leading trends in the 5G device market in the next two to three years.

The rest of the report include these sections:

  • Do Not Ask What Operators Can Do For You, Ask What You Can Do For the Operators
  • What Is Happening Under the Hood?
  • Plenty To Look Forward To
  • Q&A with Daniel Gleeson, Principal Analyst, Omdia
  • Additional Resources

The full version of the report is available for free to download here.

Telefónica consortium will launch 5G Open RAN trial this year

Spanish operator group Telefónica has announced the creation of a new consortium of companies aiming to accelerate Open RAN development.

Altiostar, Gigatera Communications, Intel, Supermicro and Xilinx are all mucking in to assist in the development and deployment of Open RAN in 4G and 5G. In announcing the new collective effort Telefónica said it will launch 4G and 5G Open RAN trials in UK, Germany, Spain and Brazil this year, which is refreshing optimistic considering the world has ground to a halt.

Here’s what the Telefónica announcement had to say about the specifics: “The collaboration focuses on the appropriate Distributed Units that implement part of the baseband radio functions using the FlexRAN software reference platform and Intel Xeon processor based servers, appropriate Remote Radio Units connected through open interfaces based on O-RAN fronthaul specification, and suitable software that manages the connectivity in an open Cloud RAN architecture.”

“Once again, Telefónica is leading the transformation towards having the best-in-class networks in our operations with our customers as key pillars,” said Enrique Blanco, Telefónica CTIO. “Open RAN is a fundamental piece for that purpose while widening the ecosystem.”

“Telefónica is known for its leading-edge network and has been championing open vRAN implementations to bring greater network service agility and flexibility,” said Pierre Kahhale, Altiostar VP of Field Operations. “By bringing together the best-of-breed innovation, Telefonica is looking to achieve this vision into their network. We look forward to supporting this transformation of Telefonica’s network.”

“Open RAN offers a way for service providers to enhance customer experiences and enable new revenue-generating applications,” said Dan Rodriguez GM of Intel’s Network Platforms Group.  “We are collaborating closely with Telefonica and the broader ecosystem, and also participating in initiatives like the O-RAN Alliance, to help accelerate innovation in the industry.”

And so on. The rest of the announcement was mostly about bigging up the benefits of O-RAN tech, such as cheapness, adaptability and playing nice with mobile edge computing. The most interesting bit was the ambition to get the ball rolling ASAP, however. O-RAN is very threatening to the business models of the big kit vendors as it opens them up to unprecedented competition. When asked about it they tend to counter that it’s nowhere near ready, but developments like this mean they might need to come up with some new spin soon.

Nokia tries to raise its chip game through partnerships

Networking vendor Nokia seems to have concluded silicon design isn’t as much of an in-house strength as it had hoped.

What a difference two years makes. At the start of 2018 Nokia was crowing about its unique processor skills, as manifested in its shiny new ReefShark chipset, and what a differentiator they would turn out to be. By the middle of last year, however, Nokia was forced to admit that things weren’t going according to plan, thanks largely to some strategic missteps concerning 5G.

One of the miscalculations seems to have been going big big on field-programmable gate array (FPGA) chips. These seemed like a good idea because, as the name implies, they could be reconfigured and optimised by the customer after purchase and installation, thus giving service providers the kind of flexibility they need for the 5G era. But all this agility comes at a price, which it looks like not everyone was prepared to pay.

So this week saw a couple of announcements from Nokia concerning partnerships with chip specialists. The first was with Marvell, which Nokia is now working with on a bunch of 5G chips, including improvements to its ReefShark ones. The minutiae of the partnership are not revealed, but Marvell’s thing is chips based on Arm’s microarchitecture, which are ubiquitous in the mobile world because they’re relatively power efficient.

Relative to Intel, that is, which has an almost comical history of trying and failing to introduce its significantly hotter and more power hungry x86 architecture-based chips into the mobile space. So it came as a bit of a surprise to see that Nokia is also enlisting Intel’s help with its silicon efforts. Then again, some of that collaboration is on the server side, where Intel and x86 remain preeminent, so that’s understandable, but we’re told Intel is getting involved in ReefShark too.

There was lots of talk about ‘custom silicon solutions’, which could mean more of a collaboration on the manufacturing side. That would make sense as Intel is apparently a Nokia chip manufacturing partner and its recent missteps have been a contributing factor to Nokia’s challenges. But they are also collaborating on chip design, with the Atom (yes, that brand still exists) P5900 processor cropping up in some Nokia gear.

Of the Marvell partnership, Tommi Uitto, President of Mobile Networks at Nokia, said: “This important announcement highlights our continued commitment to expanding the variety and utilization of ReefShark chipsets in our portfolio. This ensures that our 5G solutions are equipped to deliver best-in-class performance to our customers. As service providers continue to evolve their 5G plans and support growing traffic and new vertical services, the infrastructure and components must evolve rapidly. Adopting the latest advancements in silicon technology is a critical step to better serve our customers’ needs.”

Of Intel Uitto said: “This partnership highlights our continued commitment to ensuring our 5G portfolio is underpinned by best-in-class technology. 5G networks need to support billions of devices and machines, and this massive increase in volume and scale means that existing infrastructure and components must evolve rapidly, adopting technologies and techniques to enable to deploy 5G networks quickly.”

All this seems to amount to a move away from the FPGA strategy and the Intel announcement refers specifically to ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits). That’s probably the right decision, but it still represents a significant strategic climb-down by Nokia. Having spent years boasting about its in-house silicon competence, it’s now having to call in help externally to get its chip strategy back on track.

The risk reward profile for attending MWC 2020 is deteriorating by the day

Intel is among the latest major exhibitor to pull out of MWC as rapidly diminishing attendance makes the risk of coronavirus infection increasingly hard to justify.

Many of the most recent cancellation announcements have come from US companies or ones with a major US presence. A major reason for this will be how vigorously litigious the Americans are and thus the massive legal risk companies put themselves in if they knowingly put their employees in harm’s way.

“The safety and wellbeing of all our employees and partners is our top priority, and we have withdrawn from this year’s Mobile World Congress out of an abundance of caution,” said the Intel statement. “We are grateful to the GSMA for their understanding and look forward to attending and supporting future Mobile World Congress events.”

US telecoms R&D company Interdigital is another to have thrown the towel in today and our conversations around the industry indicate a lot of other US companies have made the decision not to attend, but haven’t formally announced it yet. On top of that Chinese attendance will be massively diminished, in part due to the impracticality of self-quarantining for two weeks prior to the show, but again many formal announcements are being delayed.

One reason for this could be the game of financial cat and mouse show organiser GSMA will now be having to play with its exhibitors and attendees. We asked the GSMA what the cancellation conditions are but have yet to hear back from them. The MWC site offers the following cancellation terms for attendees, but the exhibitor terms don’t seem to be published.

Whether those gratuitous block capitals have been inserted recently we can’t tell, but it looks like the GSMA is determined not to be out of pocket, and you can see why. A few years ago Light Reading looked into the cash the GSMA make from MWC and came to the conclusion it trousered over $35 million in profit in 2014. Since the show has grown dramatically since then, a figure closer to 50 mil doesn’t seem at all inconceivable.

The GSMA is not for profit, so it’s safe to assume a lot of what it makes from MWC is accounted for by staff costs. Such a huge, unexpected hole in its balance sheet is bound to have profound organisational implications. So not only is the GSMA is a very difficult moral position over the prospect of creating a giant human petri dish in Barcelona, the financial implications of cancelling, after which it would presumably be obliged to refund exhibitors and attendees, are colossal.

If not before it looks like some kind of further decision will be made this Friday, with a couple of major Spanish papers reporting the major operators that actually own the mobile trade association are getting together to make a call. Those papers presumably have sources within the venue and we have to assume there is regular dialogue between the Fira and the GSMA about how much the latter has to pay the former in the case of a delay or outright cancellation.

As ever with things like legal liability and insurance it all comes down to blame. Right now it still seems to be down to the discretion of the individual or company whether or not they’re willing to take the risk of contracting coronavirus in Barcelona, but that could change. The GSMA likes to refer to the World Health Organisation for the latest on the coronavirus situation and if the WHO officially upgrades it to a pandemic, that could shift a lot more of the financial liability over to insurers.

That in turn would probably precipitate the cancellation of MWC 2020 as, even if the GSMA still wanted to go ahead, what little incentive people have to risk attending will have been removed. But even if the WHO never makes that move, the risk/reward profile for exhibitors and attendees is getting worse by the day.

Even if you leave aside concerns about coronavirus, MWC is an operator show and most people attend to get precious face time with operator execs and try to flog them stuff. If those execs aren’t there, then what’s the point in making the effort? Every single cancellation announcement makes further ones more likely because, even if none of their upfront costs are refunded, people will quite reasonably conclude there’s no point in throwing good money after bad.

Intel sets new record with $72bn 2019 revenues

Chip giant Intel has set a new record for full-year revenues, collecting $72 billion across the course of 2019.

For the final three months of the year, Intel brought in revenues of $20.2 billion, an increase of 8% year-on-year, while sales for the 12 months can in at $72 billion, a 2% increase compared to 2018. Net income remained flat for the year at $21 billion.

“In 2019, we gained share in an expanded addressable market that demands more performance to process, move and store data,” said CEO Bob Swan.

“One year into our long-term financial plan, we have outperformed our revenue and EPS expectations. Looking ahead, we are investing to win the technology inflections of the future, play a bigger role in the success of our customers and increase shareholder returns.”

Although Intel has faced its difficulties over the last few years, it seems shareholders are very pleased with performance, a month into Swan’s tenure. Share price has jumped 19% over the course of the last six months, including a 5.5% increase in overnight trading since the results have been announced.

Looking at the individual business units, the Data Centre Group revenues increased to $23.5 billion across the year, up 2%. The IOT business unit brought in $3.8 billion, up 11% compared to 2019. The PC-centric business increased revenues 2% in the final quarter, but performance was flat across the year bringing in $37.1 billion.

Under intense competition from the likes of Advanced Micro Devices though it appears enthusiasm for product launches at CES earlier this month have been backed up on the spreadsheets.

Intel drops $2 billion on AI chip maker Habana Labs

Having once more failed at mobile, US chip giant Intel is doubling down on the datacenter, where artificial intelligence is expected to be ever more prominent.

Spending two billion bucks on AI chip maker Habana Labs is a major statement of intent in this regard. The Israel-based company specialises in programmable deep learning accelerators for the datacenter. Intel already has a strong position in general purpose processors used in that environment, but is under pressure when it comes to AI from rivals such as Nvidia.

“This acquisition advances our AI strategy, which is to provide customers with solutions to fit every performance need – from the intelligent edge to the data center,” said Navin Shenoy, GM of the Data Platforms Group at Intel. “More specifically, Habana turbo-charges our AI offerings for the datacenter with a high-performance training processor family and a standards-based programming environment to address evolving AI workloads.

“We know that customers are looking for ease of programmability with purpose-built AI solutions, as well as superior, scalable performance on a wide variety of workloads and neural network topologies. That’s why we’re thrilled to have an AI team of Habana’s caliber with a proven track record of execution joining Intel. Our combined IP and expertise will deliver unmatched computing performance and efficiency for AI workloads in the data center.”

Habana will remain semi-autonomous with Chairman Avigdor Willenz (pictured) hanging around for a while. Intel says its AI-driven datacenter business is growing 20% annually and will bring in $3.5 billion this year. With datacenters becoming an evermore important component of telecoms networks, this looks like Intel’s best remaining hope of capitalising on an industry that has eluded it for so long.

Intel fires one final bullying accusation at Qualcomm

Months following the well-publicised sale of its smartphone modem business to Apple, Intel has hit out at Qualcomm, accusing the semiconductor giant of market dominance misbehaviour.

Intel has now filed a brief with the US District Court of Northern District of California supporting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and opposing Qualcomm’s appeal, as the semiconductor giant fights against the condemning decision it is unfairly destroying market competition.

“Intel agrees with the District Court’s findings,” said Intel General Counsel Steven Rodgers.

“Intel suffered the brunt of Qualcomm’s anticompetitive behaviour, was denied opportunities in the modem market, was prevented from making sales to customers and was forced to sell at prices artificially skewed by Qualcomm. We filed the brief because we believe it is important for the Court of Appeals to hear our perspective.”

The anti-competition spat between the FTC and Qualcomm has been going on for years now, though it did seem to come to a head over the summer. The District Court ruled Qualcomm was abusing its position as market leader, strangling competition with unfair pricing models to effectively maintain a monopoly, though Qualcomm filed an appeal in July to reverse the decision.

Although Intel now has no skin left in the game, it sold its own 5G modem business to Apple earlier this year, reportedly for $1 billion, it is seemingly attempting to throw one last bitter barb at Qualcomm.

Intel has said in the filing that it was forced to exit the market because of the anti-competitive behaviour of Qualcomm. Through complicated and suspect contract negotiated with customers, Intel could not make the business profitable, which it now argues ultimately creates a negative gain for the consumer.

Interestingly enough, this is not the only voice of support for the FTC and in opposition of the Qualcomm appeal. Trade groups representing the likes of BMW, Continental, General Motors and Ford have also said if Qualcomm wins the appeal and is allowed to continue its current business model, it would create a precarious position for the emerging connected car segment.

On the other side of the fence, Qualcomm is mustering its own support. The US Department of Justice, the Cause of Action Institute and the Alliance of US Start-ups and Investors for Jobs have all filed amicus briefings in support of Qualcomm, and a reversal of the original antitrust decision from the US District Court.

While being found guilty of anticompetitive behaviour is nothing new for Qualcomm, it has faced already faced hefty fines in Korea, Taiwan and Europe, this legal work is bread and butter for Qualcomm. This is a company which has an army of lawyers and seemingly specialises as much in the legal world as the technology one. Qualcomm will fight this ruling to the dying breath, as while a fine is certainly unattractive, the decision fundamentally undermines the business model which has brought billions to the firm.

Intel reduced to using MediaTek modems for 5G PCs

Remember when Intel was Apple’s 5G secret weapon to break Qualcomm’s modem stranglehold? Well, now not so much.

It turns out Intel can’t even cobble together a modem for its own products and has been reduced to calling on the help of MediaTek to bring 5G to PCs containing its chips. The resulting effort is, of course, being positioned as ‘a 5G solution’, which long-time Intel partners Dell and HP will be dutifully whacking into some of their laptops when it becomes available.

“5G is poised to unleash a new level of computing and connectivity that will transform the way we interact with the world,” proclaimed Gregory Bryant, GM of Intel’s Client Computing Group. “This partnership with MediaTek brings together industry leaders with deep engineering, system integration and connectivity expertise to deliver 5G experiences on the next generation of the world’s best PCs.”

Note the uncharacteristic absence of superlatives in that otherwise by-the-book canned quote. That’s because everyone knows Qualcomm is the 5G modem leader, even Apple. Relations between Qualcomm and intel are presumably strained since the latter tried to help Apple strong-arm the former and as a result Intel partners get an inferior modem in their 5G solutions.

“Our 5G modem for PCs, developed in partnership with Intel, is integral to making 5G accessible and available across home and mobile platforms,” said MediaTek President Joe Chen. “5G will usher in the next era of PC experiences, and working with Intel, an industry leader in computing, highlights MediaTek’s expertise in designing 5G technology for global markets.”

Does it really though, Joe? Anyway, the extent to which there will be any demand for laptops with built-in 5G built in remains to be seen. With tethering now so easy, it’s hard to see why anyone would pay a premium for any kind of embedded modem in their lappy, let alone a 5G one. But it would have looked bad for Intel to not even give it a go, and that’s what this announcement seems to be about, as much as anything else.