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Intel may overthrow Q'Com's reign in iPhone

Posted: 14 Aug 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel? iPhone? Qualcomm? Apple? modem?

The conclusion of the story was that the iPhone 6s will double LTE speeds and run more efficiently with the latest Qualcomm chip.

What 9to5mac didn't offer, however, was any speculation on the iPhone 6c, the basic model. While Qualcomm nabbed the 6s win, it's likely that Intel could have snuck into the 6c.

Let's break it down

Apple must have taken a very close look at Intel's LTE modem chips. "It is natural for vendors to evaluate multiple solutions to ensure that they have the best solutions and to beat up the selected vendor on price," observed Jim McGregor, founder and principal analyst of Tirias Research.

However, McGregor, agreed with his colleague Krewell. Apple, which provides premium phones, "would not settle for anything but the best," he said.

The question is, then, what real differences exist between the latest LTE modems from Intel, such as the XMM 7360 LTE Advanced solution announced at the Mobile World Congress this year, and Qualcomm's "9X35" Gobi modem platform. The XMM 7360 supports up to Category 10 and downlink speeds of up to 450Mb/s, according to Intel.

McGregor acknowledged, "Intel LTE modems are getting much better and have caught up in terms of support for the mainstream deployments, which are typically Cat 4 and Cat 6 today." However, "the devil is in the details," he cautioned. "The real value comes in the form of the advanced features, such as carrier aggregation."

It's McGregor's belief that Qualcomm still has a significant lead over all other vendors in the number of frequency bands supported and carrier aggregation combinations. "Qualcomm's modem is also supporting other advanced features like LTE Broadcast," he added.

"Using the Qualcomm modem will give carriers in the developed markets the opportunity to use some of the more advanced LTE features like LTE-U and LTE Broadcast, which could improve their spectrum utilisation and provide some differentiation from their competition," McGregor observed.

DSP core suppliers

As for comparable LTE modem chips from Qualcomm and Intel, Krewell added, "Qualcomm's latest modem is in TSMC's 20nm process, while I believe the Intel modem is still in TSMC's 28nm process."

If we assume that Intel's modem chips are designed into some Apple's iPhones models such as 6c, DSP core suppliers that would benefit from such a move by Apple are CEVA and Tensilica (now a part of Cadence).

Intel's modem chips, based on the 2G/3G modems Intel acquired from Infineon in January, 2011, are using CEVA's DSP core. The LTE portion of Intel's modem chip originally came from Blue Wonder, an LTE specialist based in Dresden. Intel bought Blue Wonder in late 2010, only a few months before it acquired Infineon's wireless team in Munich.

Blue Wonder reportedly did a hardwired LTE implementation (in which the team used Tensilica's core as a controller instead of ARM), which was then welded into Infineon's 2G/3G modem.

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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