Intel has made a surprising announcement that their upcoming 5G modem, the XMM 8160, will be launched a full six months early. The modem, which will support 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G, is capable of speeds up to six gigabits per second when it is deployed in a model device on a fully capable network. It also supports multi-mode, meaning it can connect using millimeter wave support, stand-alone and non-stand-alone modes. It can also connect to 4G and 5G network at the same time.
Most pundits are expecting that the XMM 8160 will be the first modem that will appear in a smartphone in 2019. Don’t expect that smart phone to be an iPhone however. It will almost certainly be in an Android-based phone first.
In their announcement, Intel stated that their new 5G modem would be available in the second half of 2019 with most manufactures of smartphones and other connected devices not implementing the chip until 2020. That all-but locks the 2020 iPhone model as being the first model to support the next generation carrier speeds. Apple rarely is first to market so even if the new XMM 8160 is available for the 2019 iPhone models, don’t expect to see it.
Reports had indicated that Intel had been struggling with the 8160 in pre-roll out testing of the next generation networks with carriers like AT&T. Heat sink appeared to be the biggest issue in the prototypes and it was believe that Intel would release a 10-nanometer 8161 model as their true 5G modem. That seems to have gone to the wayside, suggesting that Intel has come to terms with the heat issues in the modem.
As it stands, carriers will have 5G rolled out well before a modem in a phone can handle it. AT&T and Verizon are both in a fact paced sprint to be the first to have a true next-gen network out this year. T-Mobile and Sprint have indicated it will be next year before they have it rolled out. That means that when the new Intel 8160 modem is actually in a device, it will be able to take full advantage of the speed improvements on these carrier networks.