Intel is investing $500 million in tech firms this year, including a free 'wifi' smartphone maker

Intel CEO Brian KrzanichIntelIntel CEO Brian Krzanich

Intel’s in-house venture capital group will plow more than $US500 million into tech companies this year, a nearly 40% increase from the year before.

Intel Capital highlighted the investment activity at its annual conference in San Diego on Tuesday and announced $US22 million in new investments, spread across 10 startups.

One of the more interesting new Intel investments Intel is FreedomPop, a wireless service provider that offers free calls and texts over wifi connections. In partnership with Intel, FreedomPop is expected to make a smartphone that includes Intel’s SoFIA chips, which makes it easy to switch between wifi and mobile phone networks.

FreedomPop just raised $US30 million in July and is on track to have 1 million users in the US by the end of this year. Intel’s investment will help FreedomPop go against its main competitor Google Fi, while giving Intel a gateway into the mobile space, a segment it famously missed out on and has cost billions of dollars in recent years.

Intel Capital’s total investment for this year is almost a 40% increase from last year, when it spent $US359 million in total funding. That makes Intel Capital one of the largest corporate VC arms in the world. In 2014, Intel Capital was the second most active corporate VC arm, just behind Google Ventures, according to CB Insights.

Today’s announcement was made at Intel’s 16th annual Intel Capital Global Summit. Intel Capital has been one of the largest corporate VC arms for years, and has invested over $US11 billion in over 1,400 companies since 1991.

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