Intel buys Fujitsu RF unit to beef up LTE expertise

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Intel purchased a unit of Fujitsu, called Fujitsu Semiconductor Wireless Products, a specialist in RF transceiver technology, in a bid to increase its LTE and overall mobile expertise, an Intel spokeswoman confirmed to FierceWireless.

Intel spokeswoman Cara Walker said that the deal closed last month. "The deal extends Intel's investments in mobile cellular technology and adds an experienced RF team to our world-class RF development community," she said. Terms of the deal, which was first reported by Forward Concepts analyst Will Strauss, were not disclosed.

According to Strauss, the acquisition of the Tempe, Ariz.-based Fujitsu unit "is a very important move for Intel as Fujitsu Wireless had developed probably the most advanced multimode LTE RF transceiver available in the open market."

Strauss, in his newsletter to clients, noted that the Fujitsu Wireless operation traces its lineage to Freescale Semiconductor and Motorola Semiconductor. "Intel has acquired a truly seasoned technical staff, now probably their most seasoned U.S.-based wireless talent," he said.

Why did the deal fly under the radar? "I suspect that Intel was not eager to embarrass its former Infineon staff in Germany, which has been the major player in 2G/3G RF Transceivers and has shipped a multimode LTE RF Transceiver (but not an LTE modem) in selected Motorola Droid smartphones," Strauss wrote. Walker said that Intel does not typically announce these kinds of transactions. Intel purchased Infineon's wireless chipset unit for around $1.4 billion in cash in 2010.

Intel's single-mode LTE chipset solution is shipping now and the company has said that it expects to begin multimode LTE shipments later this year. Most U.S. carriers are moving rapidly to LTE for smartphones and tablets--Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) has indicated it could launch an LTE-only smartphone in the fourth quarter of 2014. Intel executives have said a lack of LTE designs is holding back the company's mobile ambitions, especially in the U.S. market.  

Strauss noted that Intel has been busy working on the next-generation LTE Advanced solutions and is preparing for carrier aggregation designs. "It now appears that Intel's wireless geographic center of gravity has shifted a bit," he said.

In an interview with FierceWireless, Strauss noted that RF transceivers are critical components of LTE modems, especially because there are around 40 LTE bands worldwide that chipset makers need to handle. Fujitsu is "one of the few" companies in the world that can do that, he said, outside of industry leader Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). "It will certainly enhance [Intel's] capabilities," Strauss said.

In February Qualcomm unveiled a new chipset solution that it argues will help device makers worldwide overcome issues related LTE spectrum fragmentation by providing them with a multimode LTE design. Qualcomm's solution, dubbed the RF360 Front End Solution, is actually a whole family of chips designed to mitigate LTE band fragmentation while improving RF performance and helping device makers develop multiband, multimode mobile devices supporting all seven cellular modes, including FDD-LTE, TD-LTE, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE. Qualcomm said the new solution will let OEMs design a region-specific LTE solution or go broader if they need to add LTE global roaming support.

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