Intel aiming for tablet design wins with global 4G support

Intel is trying to woo tablet manufacturers to use its Atoms chips by providing a single modem that is compatible with most global 4G networks.

The Intel XMM 7160 modem supports 15 of the world's 40+ 4G bands, allowing a single configuration to operate across major markets in Asia, Europe and the US.

"[With the XMM 7160] manufacturers of devices can serve the global market with a single global skew or small number of skews between one and three," explained Thomas Lindner, senior director of marketing & product planning at Intel, during the launch.

The modem is designed primarily for use within tablets, and is now shipping in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 across Europe and Asia. Intel also expects the modem to be built-into Ultrabooks and 2-in-1 devices going forward.

Despite providing high-speed internet connectivity, 4G has caused huge fragmentation issues in the wireless space.

The emergence of 40+ 4G (LTE) bands worldwide has created a developmental and logistical nightmare for device manufacturers as they have switch chipsets depending on different regions. In comparison, legacy connectivity such as 2G had four bands and 3G had five bands.

Despite Intel touting the advantage of using the XMM 7160, it may not be enough to trigger mass adoption of Atom-based processors.

Qualcomm has been working hard to solve 4G fragmentation issues and its current Snapdragon series supports up to 10 bands. The firm has also built 4G directly onto chips and this makes them small enough to be included in smartphones as well as tablets. Qualcomm's chips are currently found in most high-end smartphones including prominent devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z1.

Intel has not revealed when it will launch Atom chips with 4G built-in, but they are on the roadmap. The firm has also kept quiet about plans to deploy Software-Defined-Radio technology - a platform that should allow one chip to work globally by configuring software.

Despite its perceived sluggishness to enter the mobile space, Lindner claimed that Intel is entering the 4G market "just as it's about to take off".

There are 166 million 4G subscribers in 2013 and this is expected to grow to over 1 billion in 2017, he added.

Khidr Suleman is the Technical Editor at IT Pro, a role he has fulfilled since March 2012. He is responsible for the reviews section on the site  - so get in touch if you have a product you think might be of interest to the business world. He also covers the hardware and operating systems beats. Prior to joining IT Pro, Khidr worked as a reporter at Incisive Media. He studied law at the University of Reading and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism and Online Writing at PMA Training.