This week we were fortunate enough to attend the Intel IDF 2014 event in Shenzhen China, with a keynote presentation Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. One of the most vital areas touched on in the presentation, was Intel’s continued drive to develop platforms that can help the company penetrate the predominantly low cost Chinese mobile device market. This takes the form of Intel’s forthcoming 5 mode LTE-A chip, and ‘SoFIA’, an entry-level Atom SoC that will initially integrate 3G, with a global LTE-A version due in 2015.
Qualcomm, Mediatek and others have tended to dominate the handset markets of China, India and other markets where entry-level handset devices mean huge volumes, and strong potential revenue streams. One of the key elements of these entry-level platform is integrated 3G, and more recently 4G LTE capabilities.
Intel’s first discrete LTE solution has been shipping since the Q3 of last year, offering standard LTE Cat 4 (150Mbps) connectivity. The follow up will be available in Q2 this year and support 5 mode LTE Advanced with Cat 6 (300Mbps) connectivity making it ideal as a global solution. This is the result of the Infinion purchase back in 2011, and in theory at least, puts Intel in a considerable position of strength to now compete with Qualcomm in particular who have thus far dominated the LTE landscape.
Historically, when it comes to the mobile device space, Intel has of course been playing catch up, re-inventing and re-working its x86 processor platforms with lower thermals, better battery life, eventually reverting to a more mobile-friendly System-on-Chip (SoC) design that integrates virtually all the necessary components for a mobile device on single piece of silicon.
Currently in development, SoFIA is a fully integrated SoC which integrates an entry-level Atom with a 2G/3G modem plus 2G/3G RF receiver. This platform will launch in Q4 of this year, directly targeting the low-end Smartphone segment and was demoed during the keynote at IDF this week. Although the forthcoming Sofia SoC will not integrate 4G LTE standards, a new and updated 4G capable SoFIA will debut early 2015.
This was a big news thread for Intel at the event, who face an almost make or break moment to finally compete in the high-volume, entry-level space in emerging markets, in which it has so far utterly failed to find traction with current Bay Trail offerings. Today’s Keynote speech is essentially a huge statement of intent, but Intel still faces plenty of competition in this space. Time will tell if they can really deliver a platform that will disrupt the low-end handset manufacturing in China.