Intel has quietly snapped up Fujitsu’s wireless division in a bid to further increase its LTE expertise. Specifically, it’s purchased Fujitsu Semiconductor Wireless Products, an Arizona-based arm of the Japanese company that specializes in LTE RF (radio frequency) technology.
The move should help Intel develop more advanced LTE products and expand its Bay Trail products internationally in 2014. Right now, the company’s first LTE modem, the XMM 7160, is a single-mode product (multi-mode versions were expected to ship by the end of Q2, but there’s been no word on if that happened).
The importance of ramping up the company’s wireless products can’t be understated. Qualcomm has increasingly dominated the industry in 2012 and 2013 thanks in no small part to its integrated 28nm LTE radio. While Broadcom announced a 28nm LTE radio in February, Qualcomm beat everyone to the punch as far as shipping units went.
Customers can buy a 28nm radio separately from Qualcomm, and a few companies have, but this eats into motherboard space when that area is under a great deal of pressure already. Higher TDP SoCs and a desire for additional storage capacity can cut into the already tiny space available (just have a glance at the iPhone 5’s tiny logic board below to see the extent of how space is at a premium).
Buying Fujitsu’s wireless division doesn’t give Intel a top-to-bottom LTE stack. Right now, the company is shipping a single-mode LTE RF transceiver, courtesy of the Infineon acquisition of several years ago.
Fujitsu is one of the few companies with a multi-mode LTE RF transceiver, which gives Intel more options when designing products for multiple markets. That’s critically important given that some of its major mobile partners to date have Indian and Chinese OEMs.
Qualcomm is also focused on providing LTE chips that can handle a greater number of standards in one SoC, thus allowing manufacturers to cut their total deployment costs across international markets by standardising on a single chip. Its RF360 family claims to be 50 per cent of the size of other solutions, while still providing better performance and power consumption. Other companies, like Broadcom and Nvidia’s Icera software-defined modem, are also hoping to get in on the action in 2014 through 2015.
According to Forward Concepts analyst Will Strauss, Intel has likely closed the deal quietly to avoid embarrassing Infineon, which it very publicly acquired for its radio technology several years back. Infineon’s work is baked into the XMM 7160, but clearly Intel wants to evolve its product lines aggressively and chase more design wins against Qualcomm in international spaces.
Image Credit: iFixit