Intel launches a bevy of modems to tap into 5G tech

Mobile modems spark rumours of Intel-powered 5G iPhone

Intel has introduced a number of 5G modems as part of its proclaimed commitment to accelerate the adoption of the next-generation wireless communications standard.

The flagship announcement is the XMM 8000 series, a family of 5G multi-mode modems that operate in both the sub-6GHz and millimetre wave global radio spectrum bands.

Within this family is the XMM 8060, a commercial 5G modem and the first 5G Intel unit that can deliver multi-mode support for both 5G non-standalone and standalone NR, in addition to 4G, 3G and 2G modes.

The company also provided an update on its XMM 7660 LTE modem, which can now support speeds of up to 1.6gbits/sec and delivers Cat-19 capabilities. It also features advanced MIMO, Intel said, carrier aggregation and a "broad range of band support".

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Cormac Conroy, Intel's corporate VP and GM of the communication and devices group, said: "Intel is committed to delivering leading 5G multi-mode modem technology and making sure the transition to 5G is smooth.

"Our investments in a full portfolio of modem technologies and products are critical to achieving the vision of seamless 5G connectivity."

Intel's vision for 5G connectivity is quite broad, including its use in automotive, PCs, fixed wireless consumer equipment and phones.

The mention of phones in the XMM 8000 launch announcement almost immediately spawned rumours that the technology will be coming to a future iPhone.

An unnamed source told Fast Company Apple's engineers "have been engaged with Intel counterparts for early work on 5G ... while dialog between Apple and the dominant supplier in the industry, Qualcomm, has been limited".

Don't expect 5G to appear on the 2018 successors to the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, though. The XMM 8060 Modem isn't scheduled to appear in any devices until mid 2019 and the XMM 7660 Modem isn't expected until then either. Indeed, the roll-out of the XMM 8060 is stipulated by Intel as coming ahead of the "anticipated broad deployment of 5G networks in 2020".

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So you have at least two years to wait until you're likely to get your hands on a 5G smartphone.

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