5G Race is On: Intel 5G Modem Based Devices and iPhones Coming in 2020

Intel yesterday finally unveiled its latest 5G modem solution which will help it to stay relevant in the 5G race. Intel aims to power a plethora of 5G devices starting from smartphones, CPEs, PCs, tablets and other IoT devices with its standalone modem solutions. According to our research, 5G devices are going to take off as early as next year and we could see shipments to cross 100 million units as soon as 2020.


  • Intel’s latest modem XMM 8160 incorporates capabilities to support the new 5G NR (New Radio) technology
  • The XMM 8160 is a multimode discrete chipset supporting both standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) 5G NR modes along with  the legacy fallback modes – 4G, 3G and 2G into a single-chip solution
  • Supporting SA mode from start makes it future proof for markets such as China which is looking to leapfrog other operators to deploy 5G NR Standalone mode directly
  • The XMM 8160 also supports the entire spectrum range right from 600 MHz to 6GHz (FDD and TDD) and mmWave (popular –> 24.25-27.5 GHz, 27.5-29.5 GHz and 37-43.5GHz) bands.
  • Intel aims to ship XMM 8160 in volumes to its customers in 2H2019 for the 5G devices commercialization with its modem will happen throughout 2020
  • This checks all the boxes satisfying Apple’s requirement for a 5G modem in future iPhones, iPads and potentially other devices and secures its position for Apple’s first wave of 5G devices
  • This nicely puts 5G iPhones to potentially roll out in Sep 2020 with mass market adoption across its portfolio and user base starting 2021
  • It still is unclear though what process node XMM 8160 would be manufactured on. But we estimate that it could be on 10nm despite Intel’s struggle to improve 10nm manufacturing yields this year and seeing rivals already race to 7nm based solutions
  • Meanwhile, Qualcomm is expecting a huge wave of flagship 5G Android smartphones and other devices to sport its X50 5GNR modem(10nm) starting 1H 2019 and has secured numerous design wins across different devices as well as automotive.
  • Qualcomm has also made significant progress with its supporting 5G RF Front End (RFFE) solution which is key for OEMs to ship commercial grade practical form-factors and efficiencies
  • We are yet to hear on any progress from Intel (or partners) on the supporting RFFE solutions to come close to Qualcomm or other rivals such as Hisilicon or Samsung’s progress
  • Further, by 2020, we estimate to see the first wave of devices sporting SoCs integrated with 5G modem which means some of Intel’s rivals will widen the gap with Intel
  • Thus, Intel is at least eighteen months or more and a generation behind Qualcomm and others which are likely to launch more power efficient 7nm based 5G solutions by the time Intel’s 10nm XMM 8160 commercializes.
  • While Apple and a few PC OEMs wins for Intel’s new modems is on the cards for 2020, it remains to be seen what other design wins Intel will be announcing by the end of next year when it starts shipping the chipset to its customers
  • The 5G race is on, Intel will have to pull off a lot of design wins to scale its business and build on some traction it has built with its 5G demonstrations at Winter Olympics earlier this year to different operator and use-cases trials and also securing slots for demonstrations of 5G connected solutions at 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Neil is a sought-after frequently-quoted Industry Analyst with a wide spectrum of rich multifunctional experience. He is a knowledgeable, adept, and accomplished strategist. In the last 18 years he has offered expert strategic advice that has been highly regarded across different industries especially in telecom. Prior to Counterpoint, Neil worked at Strategy Analytics as a Senior Analyst (Telecom). Neil also had an opportunity to work with Philips Electronics in multiple roles. He is also an IEEE Certified Wireless Professional with a Master of Science (Telecommunications & Business) from the University of Maryland, College Park, USA.

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