Many of the first devices to support 5G will be smartphones, but eventually, the technology is going to be available in a much wider range of devices. Last week at MWC, we got our first look at how that might work for computers, with AnandTech reporting that both Intel and Qualcomm were showing off 5G modems that connected to desktops or laptop machines via their M.2 sockets.
However, before you start betting on being able to plug in one of these modules for yourself and upgrade your desktop or laptop to 5G, it looks like these aren’t being intended as aftermarket upgrades. Both modules appear to rely on being connected to external 5G antennas, which don’t tend to be user-upgradeable. Instead, the intended customers for these are likely to be laptop manufacturers such as Dell, HP, and Lenovo, which have purchased similar LTE versions of these modules in the past.
Expect devices using these to start shipping in 2020
In terms of specs, the Intel modules, which are manufactured by Fibocom, use Intel’s XMM8160 modem and are confirmed to support both Sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G. Meanwhile, Qualcomm’s modules are based on the company’s recently announced X55 modem, which suggests that they should also support both forms of 5G. Both modules are 30 millimeters wide, which is the widest possible variant of the M.2 standard. (Standard M.2 storage drives are just 22mm wide.)
Exact manufacturer, device, or release date information is yet to be confirmed, but a representative from Fibocom said that it doesn’t expect the modules featuring Intel modems to make their way into devices until 2020.