Intel and Analog Devices Link Up to Streamline 5G Network Design

August 05, 2020 by Jake Hertz

The two RF powerhouses have teamed up to create a flexible radio platform that addresses 5G network design challenges.

Mobile communications is one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Wireless traffic has exploded over the past decade with the advent of cloud-based software. Now with 5G impending and the number of IoT devices rising, the demand on the mobile communications infrastructure is expected to increase significantly. 


Recent wireless data traffic growth trend.

Recent trends in wireless data traffic growth. Image (modified) used courtesy of CTIA


For these reasons, it has become even more important for RF engineers to shorten time to market.


Intel Partners With Analog Devices

With this in mind, Intel and Analog Devices have recently announced their collaboration on a new, flexible radio platform for 5G design

This platform mainly concerns two central devices: ADI’s RF transceivers and Intel’s Arria 10 field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). Combining these advanced technologies, the two companies hope to provide developers a new set of design tools to more easily create optimized 5G solutions.


Why the ADI-Intel Collaboration is Significant

Because 5G is a technically challenging RF problem, these collaborations between semiconductor giants are critical for progressing the technology. The RF front end is a vital part of RF design, largely influencing power consumption, signal quality, and throughput.

A highly-configurable and reprogrammable solution like Intel’s Arria 10 FPGAs with a reliable RF transceiver can greatly simplify things for designers. 


Block diagram of ADI's AD9375

Block diagram of ADI's AD9375, an integrated dual RF transceiver. Image used courtesy of Analog Devices


On this, Joe Barry, VP of ADI's wireless communications business unit says, “By coupling ADI’s transceivers featuring advanced digital frontend (DFE) functionality with Intel’s leading FPGA technology, our customers’ solutions can achieve the high level of performance they require while increasing their flexibility to more efficiently resolve emerging network issues.” 


A Continuation of the Push for 5G

This FPGA-transceiver combination is the latest in a number of efforts aimed at advancing 5G radio technology. The U.S government launched a 5G software effort earlier this year aimed at creating open software standards to virtualize hardware and allow 5G networks to run on any manufacturer’s equipment.

This news also comes on the heels of ADI’s partnership with Marvell Semiconductor to create integrated 5G solutions.


Two Heads are Better Than One

Notably, other companies such as Qualcomm and Broadcomm offer their own RF portfolios including front-end solutions. The differentiating factor with Intel and ADI’s partnership is that the companies are combining their specialized technology to yield greater results than a single company could—combining Intel’s processing technologies with ADI’s digital front-end technology. 

CC Chong, senior director of Intel's programmable solution group, explained, “We look forward to working with ADI to expedite hardware development by offering FPGA platforms that are flexible to meet changing requirements, are easy to use, and remove many of the complex barriers of RF and digital product development.”