Intel targets 40% mobile base station chipset share by 2022

Intel targets huge slice of 5G base station chipset market with edge-friendly, 10nm Snow Ridge design.

Snow Ridge chipset supporting a small cell design on stage at Intel’s CES 2019 press event.

Intel has claimed it will have 40% of the mobile base station chipset market by 2022, as the market moves to embed compute capabilities at the edge of the network to meet 5G use cases.

Navin Shanoy, Exec VP and GM, Data Centre Group, Intel, said that the a new 10nm process chipset currently code named Snow Ridge, “is going to bring Intel architecture into a new place where it has never been before, the wireless base station market”. That would drive Intel’s market presence from “0%” just a few years ago to over 40% in 2022.

Up until now, Shenoy said, base stations have been composed of fixed function, proprietary hardware and software. But base stations are now being “rearchitected” to run on Intel technology so that base stations can process and prioritise multiple application flows with stringent throughput and latency requirements. 

“So today we are announcing that we are expanding our decade long investments in network infrastructure with a new network SoC, code named Snow Ridge, that is being developed specifically for 5G wireless access,” Shenoy said at a press event at CES 2019. 

“What we are doing is taking all the technology we have developed for the server market, shrinking it into a very small form factor and ruggedising it so it can sit on those cellphone towers that we all drive by -therefore moving servers, essentially, closer and closer to the user.”

Shenoy ran a proof of concept demo showing Snow Ridge processor technology dealing with a mix of five types of traffic generated by a simulator: Industrial Iot, VR, remote surgery, streaming sports content and a productivity application.

“What SR is able to do is differentiate between different apps and prioritise the app that is most latency sensitive, in this case the remote surgery app. You can see it is running at 100Gbps of traffic and is able to prioritise that remote surgery app over the others. This  is a simple example but wouldn’t be possible without the latency you can bring into the market with a product like Snow Ridge and without 5G,” Shenoy added.

Shenoy said that although Intel has made a decade of investments into the network infrastructure space, it is 5G, with its convergence of communications and computing, that will really benefit from Intel’s architecture and capabilities. That’s because meeting new low latency use cases is only possible by moving the compute power to the edge where data is being generated and consumed.

Several newer players to the radio base station market such as Mavenir and Parallel Wireless base their network element designs on Intel chips and accelerators, with the aim of being able to deliver product at much lower price points than current vendors within an “Open” management and interoperability environment. Intel has also delivered a reference architecture known as Flex RAN to the market, integrating market-ready NFV and vRAN components within one framework.

Established base station players have also integrated Intel technology: for example Nokia uses Intel within its Airscale base station product and has previously said that Intel was “heavily involved” with the Nokia-branded Reef Shark network chipset family. Both Nokia and Ericsson presented as Intel partners at a 5G event held before MWC Americas in September 2018.