The first iteration of the 7160 will be equipped for so-called Category 3 LTE, with throughput as high as 100Mbps (bits per second). An updated version shipping by year's end will offer Category 4 LTE, which can go as high as 150Mbps. Speeds for individual users won't match those maximums, but each advance should mean better real-world performance. The second version of the 7160 will also support VoLTE (voice over LTE), which will let carriers shift voice calls from their 2G and 3G systems onto what are now data-only LTE networks.
The chip could also be set up to support TD (time-division) LTE, a form of the technology that Sprint, China Mobile and other carriers plan to use. Whether Intel implements TD-LTE in the 7160 will depend on demand from operators, Evans said.
In parallel with the 7160, Intel has been developing the XMM 7260, which is due to ship in the first half of next year. The 7260 can support carrier aggregation, an emerging LTE feature that lets operators combine two separate spectrum bands into one for higher performance. On Monday, Intel demonstrated carrier aggregation on a 7260 evaluation board built at its new design center in San Diego, Qualcomm's hometown. The 7260 also will include TD-LTE.
Intel has a major potential advantage over wireless rivals in the form of its advanced chip design expertise and private foundry capacity, said analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates, who attended the event. This is the chipmaking operation that churns out smaller, faster, more efficient microprocessors on a steady schedule. Qualcomm, by contrast, relies on outside manufacturers.
The former Infineon wireless business is still relying on TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.), but Intel expects to bring its own chipmaking assets to bear on the wireless business within two to three years, Evans said. The sooner it can do so, the more benefit it can gain, Gold said.
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