Intel takes aim at Huawei 5G market presence

Intel has ambitious plans to grab the 5G base station marketplace, which is still in its infancy.

note 10 5g node
Christopher Hebert/IDG

Intel on Monday introduced a raft of new processors, and while updates to the Xeon Scalable lineup led the parade, the real news is Intel's efforts to go after the embattled Huawei Technologies in the 5G market.

Intel unveiled its first ever 5G integrated chip platform, the Atom P5900, for use in base stations. Navin Shenoy, executive vice president and general manager of the data platforms group at Intel, said the product is designed for 5G's high bandwidth and low latency and combines compute, 100Gb performance and acceleration into a single SoC.

"It delivers a performance punch in packet security throughput, and improved packet balancing throughput versus using software alone," Shenoy said in the video accompanying the announcement. Intel claims the dynamic load balancer native to the Atom P5900 chip is 3.7 times more efficient at packet balancing throughput than software alone.

Shenoy said Ericsson, Nokia, and ZTE have announced that they will use the Atom P5900 in their base stations. Intel hopes to be the market leader for silicon base station chips by 2021, aiming for 40% of the market and six million 5G base stations by 2024.

That's pretty aggressive, but the 5G fields are very green and there is plenty of room for growth. Despite all the mobile provider's commercials boasting of 5G availability, the fact is, true 5G phones are only just coming to market now, and the number of base stations is minimal. 5G has a long ramp ahead.

The Atom P5900 puts Intel in competition with China's Huawei, which U.S. federal authorities have repeatedly labeled a security risk. Huawei has been barred from several nations, including the U.S., England, Japan, and Australia. However, Huawei also said it has secured more than 90 commercial 5G contracts globally.

Until now, Ericsson and Nokia have asked developers such as Broadcom to help develop base station chips, while Samsung designs and manufactures its own 5G base station chips.

Second Generation Xeon Scalable processors

Intel's latest launch also includes 18 2nd Gen Xeon Scalable processors; one is branded Bronze, four are Silver, and 13 are Gold. The upgraded lineup targets the entry-level to medium-range market, leaving the Platinum to duke it out with the high end AMD Epyc processors.

The new processors range from 8 to 28 cores and include a variety of clock speeds that go down as the core count goes up. They have TDP ratings that range from 85 watts for the eight-core, 1.9Ghz Bronze 3206R to 205 watts for the 28-core, 2.7Ghz Gold 6258R. (Intel and other chip makers measure a processor's power draw with a specification called thermal design power, or TDP.)

While most of the chips are meant for standard data center use, some processors – including the Xeon Gold 6200U, Silver 4200R, Sliver 4210T and Bronze 3200R – are specifically meant for single-socket, entry-level servers, as well as edge, networking and IoT uses.

Intel also introduced the Intel Ethernet 700 Network Adapter, which comes with hardware-enhanced precision timing designed specifically for 5G and other scenarios with very low latency and timing requirements.

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