Intel currently has 40 laptops with LTE support for both the consumer and enterprise market. There are more than forty more LTE connected laptops coming. Out of the number six Project Athena and there will be six more Project Athena LTE enabled notebooks. The general impression that Intel doesn’t play in the always-connected LTE 4G market is utterly wrong.
Earlier this year, Intel sold off its 4G Modem IP to Apple. According to the company’s officials, one of the critical motivations was that modems were not a viable business to supply a single customer as the modem investment is hard and expensive.
Lenovo should be shipping its 5G enabled Snapdragon-based Always connected PC at some undefined time in 2020, but it looks like it will be first to ship.
Intel + Mediatek + Fibocom = 5G notebook
Intel has chosen MediaTek as a modem supplier. The Taiwan based company has decent 4G, LTE solutions, and it was rather late to 4G. MediaTek has great technology IP but doesn’t have a rock-solid roadmap. In the past, MediaTek tended to sway off course, chasing some hard to reach goals. The obvious example was the ten core flirt and the hope that it can dethrone Snapdragon in the high end. That didn’t end well.
According to the latest announcement, MediaTek will start shipping 5G solutions in 2020. It has announced Dimensity 1000 Smartphone-based application processor with an integrated 5G modem. PCs need a separate modem. Since it takes time to make a separate chip, this may be one of the reasons Intel announced that it could ship notebooks with 5G in 1H 2021.
MediaTek 5G coming to market in early 2020 is still a bit later than Qualcomm, Huawei, and Samsung, which have already shipped 5G products in 2019, but it was not years later as with the 4G transition.
Martyn Stroeve and Ryan Shrout, chief performance strategists at Intel confirmed that MediaTek will develop and manufacture a 5G modem for Intel-based connected 5G notebooks. Furthermore, they detailed a liitle bit of informationthat Intel will define 5G laptop solution specification, engage on OS driver development, and help the OEM with Integration and support.
5G M2 based Modem
China-based wireless communication module specialist Fibocom will enable the third piece of the puzzle. It will develop an M.2 module as well as certification and support, as this will simplify 5G modem integration for the OEMs. It will be as simple as plugging an M2 module in the notebook.
Let’s not forget the RF, filters, and antennas, which are vital design elements for the future 5G enabled Intel always-connected PC.
Any LTE or future 5G notebook designs are rather complex, but OEMs have decades of experience of integrating WiFi antennas. The screen is always the largest area of any notebook; there will be plenty of space for 5G antennas. At the end of the day, they fit in the phone form factor, even with mmWave antennas, and they should fit notebooks too.
Yours truly is a big believer that many enterprise and consumer customers will embrace the always-connected PC initiative. Once you try a machine that is always securely connected, it is hard to go back. Most things on your laptop don’t work without connectivity these days.
Just think about it, your iPhone without connectivity is a very expensive iPod. Modems absolutely belong on a high-end notebook platform especially in the thin and light segment, where people can carry them around.