Intel today is releasing the new XMM 7260 modem to bring them up to speed in the LTE world. This Cat 6 device has more or less the full suite of features and should catch Intel up to current in cellular communications.
One of the biggest problems Intel has faced in mobile is not on the CPU front, in that regard the current 32nm Atoms are more than adequate. On the comms side the picture was not so rosy until today, their lack of LTE cost the company a simply staggering sum of cash. Worse yet not having an LTE radio hamstrung the rest of the platform, an otherwise pretty good device coupled to 3G is death in the modern market. Intel went from promising mobile presence to forgotten in very short order.
Meet the new boss, not the same as the old boss
Since the great LTE miss of two years ago, Intel has released their XMM 7160 modem, updated it to do things like multimode, and gotten certified by lots of carriers. You can buy an Intel based cell modem card from Telit, Sierra, or Huawei but it is only a 15-band capable, Cat 4 (150Mbps) device even if it can do VoLTE now. If you scoffed at this part when it first came out, you might want to look back at what recent firm/software updates have added to the mix, it is a different beast than it was at launch.
This lackluster performance changes today though with the introduction of the new XMM 7260, a Cat 6 (300/50Mbps) device with support for “more than 30 3GPP bands”. Better yet it can do contiguous or non-contiguous Carrier Aggregation (CA) on the downlink with up to 40Mhz using combined frequencies, not bad for a “one-chip” solution. For the pedantic, each SKU can support 22 of those bands simultaneously if your front end will support it. In short the XMM 7260 is a full 3GPP release 10 part.
On the chip side, the device comes in two parts with the front end being 65nm and the modem itself built on 28nm. That last one is an interesting bit considering that Intel doesn’t have a 28nm process, but since they can’t say the name of the apps processor on board it is the lesser of the annoying things to ask about.
One more interesting point is that since Intel makes these devices as well as Wi-Fi chips, they decided to take advantage of those synergies. The XMM 7260 can share a single antenna with the newly announced ‘Lightning Peak’ 802.11AC device. Gigabit ethernet and 300/50Mb LTE from a single antenna is not bad for the user but much better for the OEM who only has to make room for one antenna. Don’t discount this as a sales tool, it removes a massive headache from the design cycle and that is worth a lot of money.
Intel says that the XMM 7260 is in certification at all major Tier 1 carriers at the moment and will be on shelves, in devices on shelves that is, in Q2. Given the time frames involved, that almost assuredly means that the modem passed its certification tests months ago and Intel can’t reveal that without greatly annoying the carriers. At long last Intel will have a competitive radio on the market, let the games begin.S|A
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