Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Tuesday, October 27, 2020
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Intel Unpacks Its 5G Portfolio 

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Intel Corp. unveiled a batch of 5G networking components this week, joining a growing list of chip and hardware vendors targeting the estimated $25 billion silicon market for next-generation wireless equipment.

The chip maker said Thursday (Oct. 1) it 5G lineup includes components for the radio access network, including a “dedicated accelerator” for its virtualized RAN as well as a software reference architecture for its version of the pivotal 5G hub branded as FlexRAN.

Those 5G components would run on the chip maker’s Xeon Scalable and D processors, dubbed “Ice Lake.” A network function virtualization infrastructure offering rounds out the 5G package.

Intel is among a growing list of semiconductor manufacturers targeting emerging 5G deployments that would incorporate edge computing and machine learning, or what Intel refers to as “pervasive” AI.

The chip maker’s networking chief said Intel’s architecture meshes AI and edge computing with accelerating 5G deployments that would exponentially boost network bandwidth and reduce latency. The combination would provide a “multiplier effect” that would “transform entire industries,” predicted Dan Rodriguez, general manager of Intel’s Network Platforms Group.

Intel’s FlexRAN reference architecture seeks to leverage 5G bandwidth with an optimized multiple input/output pipeline designed to support low-latency communications. Amdocs (NASDAQ: DOX), the St. Louis-based communications software vendor, said this week it would integrate its SmartRAN platform with Intel’s reference architecture.

SmartRAN supports 5G projects established by the O-RAN Alliance, including the testing of a multi-antenna deployment.

Along with the Ice Lake-SP processor that targets 5G core operations and edge workloads, Intel’s 5G portfolio includes a vRAN dedicated accelerator based on the chip maker’s eASIC technology. The accelerator offloads processing-intensive forward error correction, a technique used to eliminate errors in data transmissions over “noisy” communications channels.

The accelerator “frees up more processing power within Intel Xeon processors for channel capacity and edge-based services and applications,” the chip maker said.

Intel said it is currently sampling the accelerator with customers that include Altiostar, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) and network equipment maker Nokia.

Meanwhile, an Ethernet adapter card, code-named “Columbiaville,” serves as the basis for upgrading network function virtualization platforms from IBM/Red Hat, Ubuntu and Intel’s version of the NFVI Forwarding Platform.  Intel said those upgrades will be available soon.

Japan’s Rakuten rolled out its 5G mobile network this week to mixed reviews over service availability. The 5G network uses Intel’s FlexRAN scheme along with Xeon processors and the chip maker’s FPGAs. Intel is also working with SK Telecom, emerging 5G equipment vendor Samsung Electronics and HPE. It is also collaborating with Verizon on trial runs such as virtualized 5G data transmissions.

Intel, which also this week announced government partnerships to advance chip manufacturing and neuromorphic computing, claims to be the largest vendor of networking silicon, with more than 15,000 edge deployments.

 

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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