5G speed might be coming to Apple products as soon as 2020, according to a recent report. Fast Company wrote this week that “a source with knowledge of Apple’s plans” says that a line of iPhones using the Intel 8161 5G modem chip is planned for release in 2020, and that Intel is developing a precursor chip called the 8060 for testing purposes.
Yet the site added that not all is well with the development process, particularly with the level of heat generated by millimetre-wave signal processing:
Many wireless carriers … will initially rely on millimetre-wave spectrum (between 30 gigahertz and 300GHz) to connect the first 5G phones. But millimetre-wave signal requires some heavy lifting from the modem chips, our source explains. This causes the release of higher-than-normal levels of thermal energy inside the phone — so much so that the heat can be felt on the outside of the phone.
The problem also affects battery life. Heat generated by a device component is always converted from electricity stored in the battery.
Fast Company added that their source said Apple is displeased with Intel’s progress in resolving the heat-generation issue, though wrote it was not enough of an issue to “reopen conversations with Qualcomm about supplying 5G modems.” (Apple and Qualcomm have been locked in a high-profile legal battle for some time, so that’s unsurprising.)
It has, however, reached out to another supplier, MediaTek, though that seems like a contingency plan if Intel does not work out.
Apple has already received Federal Communications Commission permission to test technology in the millimetre-wave spectrum, and there have been reports that the company will switch from Intel Bluetooth and Wi-Fi chips for future lines of iPhones.
However, as Fast Company noted, the tech giant’s newest models exclusively use Intel modems, and its report suggests that Apple and its CEO Tim Cook aren’t planning on cutting Intel out of their supply chain anytime in the short-term future.
Numerous manufacturers are rushing to prepare 5G devices, though the standard only became finalised in 2020 and telecoms are expected to only have spotty deployment for years. As Fast Company wrote, the upcoming Mobile World Congress in February 2018 is expected to see numerous launches of 5G devices. So the 2020 date, when there will have been a full year for telecoms to catch up, seems about right for Apple to join in.