Apple to launch 5G-enabled iPhone in 2020, reports

Apple’s first product to support the 5G standard – an iPhone – is slated for release in 2020. The handset will most likely use Intel’s 5G-capable 8161 modem, reports said.

Intel is developing the 8161 with a transition chip called the 8060, silicon that will be used to prototype and test 5G in iPhone, sources to Fast Company.

Intel is anticipated to remain Apple’s sole baseband chip supplier when 5G does arrive on iPhone, though the tech giant has been ‘unhappy’ with the chipmaker, the Fast Company report says. Details were left unmentioned, though Fast Company speculates heat dissipation issues with the 8060 modem are to blame for strained relations.

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Apple is typically slow to adopt the fastest cellular standards in its iPhone line. The first iPhone, for example, launched without support for the then-cutting-edge 3G standard, while 4G LTE integration arrived somewhat late with iPhone 5 in 2012, the report said.

Originally expected to be ready for mass manufacturing in 2016, Intel’s 10nm process has seen numerous setbacks as the company tackles production snags, the Fast Company reported. Late last month, interim CEO Bob Swan said progress is being made toward volume production, but the long-delayed chip technology is unlikely to be ready until 2019.

A 5G-capable iPhone launch in 2020 should ramp well with existing infrastructure rollout plans. Carriers are only in the very early stages of seeding their respective networks with compatible base stations, and proliferation toward widespread availability will be slow going.

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As explained by the source, carriers transitioning to 5G will initially rely on millimeter-wave spectrum, a technology that places a large amount of stress on cellular modems. The higher-than-normal processing requirements generate excess heat and detracts from handset battery life, issues with which Intel is grappling.

While the problem Apple reportedly opened discussions with existing supplier MediaTek to furnish modem chips if Intel is unable to solve the problems.

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