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Intel announces 5G modem for phone, auto, and drone testing

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Intel has largely missed out on mobile, but it sees a way in to not just the next wave of phones, but the next wave of cars, drones, and other connected devices as well.

Its hopes rest on 5G, the upcoming wireless standard that’ll deliver even faster data connections to all of our devices. What exactly 5G is and how it’ll work is still under debate. But the broad strokes have been decided on by industry groups, so Intel is trying to get in early.

Today Intel is announcing its first 5G modem, which is meant to let companies begin testing 5G data connections in their upcoming products, “including automotive, home broadband, mobile devices, and others,” according to Intel.

Intel seems to be hoping that by getting in the game early, and by offering the modem that companies use to test their 5G products, it’ll eventually become the go-to supplier for 5G radios.

That’ll be harder than it sounds, as Intel is far from the only company with big plans for 5G. Qualcomm, for instance, has a major presence in LTE modems and is already testing 5G solutions with AT&T. AT&T just today announced additional plans to work with Qualcomm on 5G trials later this year.

But the situation has been improving for Intel. This year, its LTE modems appeared in some versions of the iPhone 7. And separately, Intel is making big investments in drones and self-driving car systems, which its modems may end up being part of.

Intel’s fight into the 5G market is starting today, but where it goes over the next couple years is what’ll matter. Deployment of 5G networks is expected to start in 2020, so it’ll be a few years before any of us get to use it — or see if Intel’s efforts pan out.