Intel has a disastrous history with smartphones. It fumbled a chance for its wares to be in Apple's first iPhone, and then quit making its Atom smartphone chip to focus on modems.

But the company is now set to ship a groundbreaking modem that will deliver data-transfer rates many times faster than most wired internet connections.

The chipmaker will start shipping its first 5G modem for testing in the second half this year. Beyond mobile devices, the modem could also be used in autonomous cars, servers, base stations, networking equipment, drones, robots, and other internet-of-things devices.

In name, 5G is the successor to 4G in today's mobile devices, but it's significantly faster and more versatile. It will combine multiple wireless high-speed and low-bandwidth technologies and enable communications across an array of spectrum bands. New 5G networks are expected to be deployed starting in 2020.

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