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Analog Devices to Develop 5G Networking Hardware with Intel

Aug. 5, 2020
Analog Devices said it has partnered with Intel roll out a 5G radio solution that meets the emerging OpenRAN standard, for open radio access networks. The standard could help create alternatives to the proprietary gear sold by Huawei and others.

Analog Devices said it has partnered with Intel to roll out a new radio platform based on open standards for 5G base stations, trying to tap the emerging market for 5G networks.

The companies said on Monday they would work together to develop a package of radio hardware that will allow customers to scale up 5G networks faster and more economically.

Analog Devices said it would combine its advanced radio frequency (RF) transceiver with Intel FPGAs, a class of programmable chip that can be upgraded as 5G standards change over time. The RF transceiver is a major components of 5G telecommunications, which delivers faster data transfers to smartphones and other devices while slashing latency. 5G technology broadcasts over a wide range of frequency bands, including millimeter waves.

Analog Devices and Intel said that they plan to develop the radio hardware to meet an emerging standard for 5G technology called open radio access network or OpenRAN.

The standard would separate out the radio, hardware and software components of telecom networks, making every part of the 5G network more interchangeable and not linked to any one vendor. That way, customers would select each component of the network based on its features instead of proprietary packages sold by Huawei, which has dominated global sales of wireless networking gear for years, leaping ahead of its top rivals Ericsson and Nokia.

The OpenRAN standard could create alternatives to the end-to-end networking gear rolled out by Huawei and other manufacturers for use in 5G networks. It uses software to connect network hardware from any vendor, resembling the so-called "white box" components used in data centers. The ability to choose devices from any vendor could blunt the dominance of complete hardware-and-software packages for 5G sold by Huawei, Nokia, and Ericsson.

The OpenRAN standard could reduce the overall cost of building 5G base stations. It could also give customers flexibility to add new features to their networks by upgrading software. 

“This new radio platform reduces the overall cost of design and quickens customer time to market without sacrificing system-level performance,”  said Joe Barry, vice president of the wireless communications business at Analog Devices, in a statement. He added that the radio hardware would bring customers "the higher level of performance they require while increasing their flexibility to more efficiently resolve emerging network issues.”

Analog Devices, one of the world's largest vendors of analog semiconductors, said it would attach its advanced CMOS RF transceivers with Intel's FPGAs to create a highly flexible 5G architecture. The company said that will enable customers to tailor the frequency, power, band, and other features to boost the overall performance of the system at a lower cost. 5G technology could come to be more than 10 times faster than 4G LTE networks today.

Analog Devices is trying to strengthen its market share by partnering with other suppliers, optimizing its radio frequency components to better work with their baseband processors.

The company has also partnered with Marvell to integrate its RF components with Marvell's baseband processors for use in 5G network hardware. As part of the partnership, it plans to couple its wideband RF transceivers with baseband ASICs from Marvell to reduce the cost and power used by 5G base stations. The vendors also agreed to plot out new generations of chips to be used in radio heads, one of the key components of a 5G base station.

RF transceivers tend to slot between the baseband processor in the cellular antenna and the power amplifiers and other chips used to clarify and condition signals in 5G networks.

Intel is battling to become the global leader in chips used in base stations, targeting 40% of the market share by 2021. Intel has started supplying its latest generation of 5G baseband processors, code named Snow Ridge, to many of the largest manufacturers of networking gear in the world, in a challenge to rivals Marvell and Broadcom. The company has hashed out deals to sell the 10-nanometer chips to Ericsson, Nokia, and ZTE, among others.

Last year, Intel said the market for 5G networking chips could represent roughly $25 billion by 2023 and that more than 5 million 5G base stations could be rolled out globally by 2024.

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