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MIDs to connect via GSM, HSPA

Jun 14, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

Some Intel-architecture MIDs (mobile Internet devices) may be equipped with cellular data modems when they begin shipping early in 2008. Option N.V., a European vendor of cellular baseband chips, said it is currently developing tiny, low-power GSM and HSDPA WWAN (wireless… wide-area-network) modules specifically for MIDs.

MIDs are a product concept currently being promoted by Intel in order to manufacture demand for its forthcoming lpia (low-power on Intel architecture) processors and chipsets. Intel hopes MID sales will reach 180 million units per year just three short years from now, it said.

Mid-way between a phone and a laptop in terms of size, price, and functionality, MIDs will run various Linux-based OSes. Intel is working with Canonical, the commercial parent of Ubuntu Linux, on a new UME (Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded) distribution for Intel's lpia silicon, and with RedFlag Linux on a similar MiniNux MID distro aimed at Asian language users.

The first Intel lpia chips are expected to sample in late 2007 or early 2008, starting with a “Menlow” chipset. Menlow will be powered by a “Silverthorne” processor, privileged to be among a handful of parts slated for manufacture on Intel's premium 45nm “Hi-k” process technology. Intel has also announced a more highly integrated “Poulsbo” chipset, possibly combining processor, northbridge, and southbridge into one part, essentially creating an x86-compatible SoC. Intel previewed the parts at its Beijing Developer Forum earlier this year.

Additionally, Intel's plans were leaked for a single-chip Tolapai SoC (system-on-chip) to be based on a Pentium M processor core. However, that part may better fit industrial than mobile applications.

Built-in cellular networking could help differentiate MIDs from currently available devices in the small form-factor Internet tablet niche, such as the PepperPad and Nokia 770 and N800, as well as recently announced subnotebook-style devices such as the Via NanoBook and Palm Foleo. Presumably, it wouldn't take Nokia long to add similar capabilities to its devices, however.

Intel's much smaller competitor, Via, recently announced a Mobile-ITX reference design aimed at shoe-horning its own highly integrated x86-compatible chipsets into devices little larger than today's mobile phones, and connected through cellular networking and other wireless protocols.

Option's WWAN modules

Option's forthcoming WWAN modules include a 2.5G part targeting “growth markets,” Intel said — that is, markets in places with less developed cellular infrastructure, such as China, Latin America, and Southern Africa. Additionally, a 3.5G part will be offered, enabling MID users in the most developed nations to enjoy faster-than-broadband (384kbps) connection speeds.

Option's 2.5G WWAN module is called GTM201 EDGE. It should connect to 2G (second-generation) GPRS data services ubiquitous throughout most of the developed world, and to so-called 2.75G “EDGE” services. EDGE is a Motorola creation aimed at getting operators to upgrade existing infrastructure rather than replace it with 3G equipment.

Option's 3.5G WWAN module is called the GTM501. It is described as an HSPA (high-speed packet access) module. Current HSPA technologies include:

  • HSDPA — high-speed downlink packet access
  • HSUPA — high-speed uplink packet access
  • HSOPA — high-speed OFDM (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing) packet access

Option CEO Jan Callewaert stated, “We [are] helping identify customers [to bring] these connected ultra mobile devices to life.”

Anand Chandrasekher, GM of ultra mobility at Intel, stated, “Intel is innovating for this category by delivering a range of building blocks, including low power processors and chipsets. We expect MIDs to have a range of wireless technologies.”


Option said it will deliver the GTM201 and GTM501 later this year, in land-grid array (LGA) surface-mount packages measuring 1.2 x 1 x 0.1 inches (30 x 25 x 2.5mm). The company expects the parts to be the smallest shipping WWAN modules, when they become available.

–Henry Kingman

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