Intel puts cash behind Wi-Fi-first smartmobes

Chipzilla funds FreedomPop to get its SoFIA silicon into more mobes

Chipzilla's mobile phone silicon is so popular it's taken the step of funding a network operator to buy a custom-made smartphone based on its SoFIA chipset.

Nobody's talking how much money FreedomPop is getting from Intel Capital, but it will be enough to create a “Wi-Fi optimised” smartphone that will switch to cellular networks if needed.

The announcement was made at the Intel Capital Global Summit, and beyond promising a 2016 launch in “multiple markets”, Chipzilla didn't say when product would ship, nor which OEM will build the phone.

SoFIA has, however, seen take-up among cheap-and-cheerful Chinese handset makers, and last year, Digitimes claimed the company was offering builders a US$3 per device subsidy to get the silicon into smartphones.

The SoFIA-based FreedomPop smartphone will be “Wi-Fi first”, will throttle or boost its network performance based on the available bandwidth, and will include “high quality VoIP calls”.

While FreedomPop's current services in the US use Sprint's network, the company told LightReading the Intel-backed service will use another network.

Since SoFIA's 4G iteration won't arrive until 2016 (Digitimes again), Chipzilla and FreedomPop will have to be satisfied with a 3G network partner.

Eventually, Intel hopes the service will get global reach. ®

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