Intel has agreed to manufacture custom 5G system-on-chip (SoC)s for Ericsson, which the Swedish wireless equipment company will use to develop what promises to be “highly differentiated” networking products. The chips will be based on Intel’s latest fabrication process, 18A (1.8nm), which is so new that it has yet to begin commercial production.
When it does, the chips will offer up to a 10% improvement in performance per watt compared to current production processes. This is important because the faster the processor, the faster the network (think lower latency).
- Announcement signals confidence in 18A process technology and underscores progress on Intel’s five-nodes-in-four-years roadmap to regain process leadership.
- News shows continued collaboration between the companies to optimize standard Intel® Xeon® Scalable processor-based platforms for Ericsson’s Cloud RAN solutions.
- Industry leaders advance the adoption of 5G, building sustainable and resilient networks of the future.
Intel and Ericsson have also agreed to work more closely together to optimize the performance of Intel’s latest Xeon RAN processors on Ericsson’s cloud RAN hardware, taking aim at capacity, energy efficiency, flexibility and scalability.
In June, Ericsson laid claim to being the first vendor to use the new chip – the 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor with Intel vRAN Boost, to use its official but not exactly succinct name – to carry out an end-to-end cloud RAN call. That in itself was an achievement given that the processor made its official debut at Mobile World Congress a few months earlier.
“As our work together evolves, this is a significant milestone with Ericsson to partner broadly on their next-generation optimized 5G infrastructure. This agreement exemplifies our shared vision to innovate and transform network connectivity, and it reinforces the growing customer confidence in our process and manufacturing technology,” said Sachin Katti, senior vice president and general manager of the Network and Edge group at Intel. “We look forward to working together with Ericsson, an industry leader, to build networks that are open, reliable and ready for the future.”
18A is Intel’s most advanced node on the company’s five-nodes-in-four-years roadmap. After new gate-all-around transistor architecture – known as RibbonFET – and backside power delivery – called PowerVia – appear first in Intel 20A, Intel will deliver ribbon architecture innovation and increased performance along with continued metal linewidth reduction in 18A. Combined, these technologies will put Intel back in the process leadership position in 2025, elevating future offerings its customers bring to market.
“Ericsson has a long history of close collaboration with Intel, and we are pleased to expand this further as we utilize Intel to manufacture our future custom 5G SoCs on their 18A process node, which is in line with Ericsson’s long-term strategy for a more resilient and sustainable supply chain,” said Fredrik Jejdling, executive vice president and head of Networks at Ericsson. “In addition, we will be expanding our collaboration that we announced at MWC 2023 to work together with the ecosystem to accelerate industry-scale open RAN utilizing standard Intel Xeon-based platforms.”
As 5G deployments continue, the future lies in fully programmable, open software-defined networks powered by the same cloud-native technologies that transformed the data center, delivering unparalleled agility and automation.
To realize the best performance, innovation and global scale, the industry needs to work together and continue to synchronize network specifications as part of one global set of standards. Intel and Ericsson collaborate with other leading technology companies to bring these benefits to their customers toward industry-scale open RAN.