Intel announces first Multistandard GSM Baseband chip and the much awaited Medfield processor


Intel has started production of its Medfield Application processor for smartphones and is sending samples to phone manufacturers. Intel also announced a low power, multi-standard baseband processor, samples of which would start shipping in the second half of this year. The new baseband processor will support LTE, a fourth generation, high-speed network technology currently being deployed by carriers, as well as older 3G and 2G technologies. Intel expects to make this chip widely available in the second half of next year.

Medfield is Intel's second smartphone processor. The first, Moorestown, did not have much success in the market due to power consumption too high for smartphones. Medfield and Moorestown are based on Intel's Atom processor. Medfield, which is built on the company's latest 32-nanometer manufacturing process, is expected to be better equipped for smartphones. Smaller in size and consuming less power than the 45-nm Moorestown, the new chip is expected to enter mass production later in the year. Intel has said Medfield-powered smartphones will hit the market this year. The company has not named the manufacturers. Intel dominates the processor market for PCs, but is playing catch up in the smartphone market, which is ruled today by processors based on the designs of ARM Holdings in the U.K. ARM processors are used by all the major smartphone makers, including Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC, Research In Motion, and others.

Intel's biggest advantage over ARM is in manufacturing. Intel is expected to move to a 22-nm manufacturing process next year, which is when ARM is headed to where Intel is today -- 32 nm. Size matters because reducing the size of circuitry on a chip boosts performance and lowers active power consumption. Therefore, Intel in time could produce a higher performing chip that's less expensive than ARM's. ARM is expected to stay on top at least till end of next year.

The LTE chip stems from Intel's acquisition last month of Infineon Technologies' Wireless Solutions business. Intel's strengths in communications before the acquisition was in Wi-Fi and WiMax chips. The acquisition has added 2G, 3G and 4G LTE technologies.