Intel unveils its first 5G modem that could power 2020 iPhone

Intel today announced their very first 5G baseband processor.

Intel says the new silicon will offer “very clear” improvements in power, size and scalability. Indeed, the new 8160 5G modem supports theoretical peak speeds of up to 6 gigabits per second, or three to six times faster than the latest LTE modems available today.

Smaller than a US penny, it should be available in the second half of 2019.

This is six months earlier than originally anticipated because Intel wants to give device manufacturers ample time to release devices that will use the chip sometime in 2020.

“We are seeing great demand for the advanced feature set of the XMM 8160, such that we made a strategic decision to pull in the launch of this modem by half a year to deliver a leading 5G solution,” said Dr. Cormac Conroy, Intel’s Corporate Vice President and General Manager of the Communication and Devices Group.

The Verge speculates that Apple could use the chip in 2020 iPhone models.

The Cupertino tech giant has been mostly using Qualcomm’s modems practically since the iPhone’s inception until it started dual-sourcing LTE modems for 2016’s iPhone 7 from both Qualcomm and Intel. Apple then sued Qualcomm and finally switched to Intel’s XMM 7650 modem exclusively for the current XS, XS Max and XR smartphone.

It has been estimated that Apple could pay up to $21 per future iPhone in royalty fees to implement support for the emerging 5G cellular baseband technology. According to Intel, the new modem brings legacy support for 2G, 3G and 4G networks along with the 5G New Radio standard to a single chipset.

In other words, the new 8160 5G modem was designed to support both the millimeter wave spectrum and lower-band parts of the spectrum, which is great.