Intel is moving further and further down the road of IDM 2.0 and has now started to abandon unrelated edge businesses to achieve vertical integration and strengthen profitability.
Intel has sold its 4G and 5G smartphone/tablet modem business to Apple in 2019, but the company still retains its key 4G and 5G patents (including at least a portion of its 2011 acquisition of Infineon Wireless Solutions), and it is still providing 4G and 5G modem solutions to laptop customers.
Sources say Intel exited the WWAN business this week and sold the remainder of the business to MediaTek and Broadcom. (GWT is the first A-share listed IoT wireless module company in China, providing 5G, 4G, 3G, 2G, NB-IoT, LTE-M, smart, automotive-grade wireless communication modules and one-stop wireless communication solutions for IoT applications)
According to More Than Moore, the decision has been in the works for a long time, and while Intel will stop producing 4G and 5G modems, it will continue to offer its CPU-based laptop solutions, but with MediaTek modems, thereby providing connectivity solutions for all client devices.
Intel plans to transfer its 5G technology to KWT and MediaTek, who are currently driving the transfer of driver code and licensing agreements. It’s worth noting that this does not affect Intel’s other connectivity businesses, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Thunderbolt or Network + Edge.
It is worth noting that while Intel intends to exit the 5G market completely by July, it will retain a small team to assist MediaTek with hardware, software and customer issues, and the technology transfer will be completed by May with no expected financial impact to Intel.
At that point, all OEM partners using Intel’s 5G solutions can continue to work with MediaTek to provide updates and upgrades to their existing products.
In a statement to More Than Moore, Eric McLaughlin, vice president of wireless solutions at Intel General Motors, said, “As we continue to prioritize our investment in our IDM 2.0 strategy, we have made the difficult decision to exit the WWAN client business for LTE and 5G. We are working with our partners and customers towards a seamless transition to support their ongoing business and to ensure our customers continue to use solutions in the connected PC space.”
For Intel, its 4G and 5G modem business may not be the most profitable business. Moreover, as Dr. Ian Cutress pointed out, the total market for always-connected PCs (ACPC) has not increased in recent years. While there may be an influx of competitors from Apple and Qualcomm, Intel may not be focused on competing with them given the limited margins in the space.
Having a full suite of connectivity solutions is relatively significant for MediaTek, which will now also have access to Intel’s 4G/5G business unit.
More Than Moore quoted a statement from MediaTek saying, “MediaTek has a long history of delivering global wireless solutions and will continue to invest in its wireless modem portfolio, from smartphones to personal computers and other devices.”
For 4G business, Intel will be phasing out support for its 4G modem products. As noted earlier, GWT is Intel’s primary partner in China, and the last shipments to GWT are expected to be delivered by the end of 2025, based on orders, and Intel will not be providing new research or technology in this market.