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Intel's first 4G LTE Modem on its way to smartphones and tablets

Intel's 4G LTE XMM 7160 modem is now shipping and is included in the 4G version of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 available in Asia and Europe, the chip giant announced this week.

Along with Qualcomm, Intel is now one of just two companies with a low-power, multimode, multiband 4G LTE modem capable of Voice-over LTE (VoLTE) available on the market.

The Intel XMM 7160 provides mobile deviceswith 2G, 3G, and 4G LTE network connectivity, supporting 15 LTE bands in use around the globe. The modem also "features a highly configurable RF architecture, running real-time algorithms for envelope tracking and antenna tuning that enables cost-efficient multiband configurations, extended battery life and global LTE roaming in a single SKU," the company said.

"As LTE networks expand at a rapid pace, 4G connectivity will be an expected ingredient in devices from phones to tablets as well as laptops," Hermann Eul, vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile and Communications Group, said in a statement. "Intel is providing customers an array of options for fast, reliable LTE connectivity while delivering a competitive choice and design flexibility for the mobile ecosystem."

Intel unveiled the chipset for LTE/DC-HSPA+ smartphones, tablets, and laptops at this year's Mobile World Congress, laying out plans to ship its first 4G modem before the end of this year. But as recently as August, the chip maker indicated that it was unsure if it would ship the XMM 7160 in volume or wait for its 2014 follow-up, the XMM 7260.

After doing interoperability testing with carriers and infrastructure vendors in Asia, Europe and North America, Intel now appears ready to push out the XMM 7160 as an RF solution for makers of tablets and ultrabooks — though it's unclear if the module will wind up in any smartphones anytime soon.

Until now, Qualcomm has had this market all to itself with its RF360 chipset front-end solution. Intel still has some catching up to do, even with the 15-band XMM 7160 now shipping, as the RF360 sports a 40-band LTE radio and supports LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA, and GSM/EDGE.

Intel's new platform doesn't support TD-SCDMA, the air interface used on the network run by the world's largest wireless carrier, China Mobile. But this week, the company announced that the next-gen XMM 7260 modem will add support for TD-SCDMA and other cellular modes, including TD-LTE.

Meanwhile, Intel has also unveiled a few more cellular modem offerings for makers of mobile devices.

The Intel PCIe M.2 LTE module is a "small, cost-effective, embedded module in a standardized form factor for adding multimode (2G/3G/4G LTE) data connectivity across a variety of device types," which is currently undergoing interoperability testing with global wireless operators, the company said. PCIe M.2 LTE modules have 15-band radios capable of delivering peak downlink speeds of 100Mbps over LTE networks, Intel said, and include the company's CG1960 GNSS solution for Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) support.

Intel's other new RF chip is the SMARTi m4G transceiver built-in partnership with Murata. It stuffs "most front-end components" in a single low temperature co-fired ceramic (LTCC) package and pairs with the Intel X-GOLD 716 baseband for a full wireless modem solution, the company said.

Intel didn't offer a timeline for the release of the PCIe M.2 LTE module or SMARTi m4G transceiver, but did reiterate that its XMM 7260 platform with faster speeds and new features like carrier aggregation will ship in 2014.