A Reason for Librem 5 5G Modem!

:rocket: :artificial_satellite::iphone:This is the first, so far the only, reason I see for a 5G modem. I suspect this will work in the L5 because Starlink will need to use the lower frequency bands to achieve the advertised 3Mbps service.

Have any of you seen a suitable 5G modem in the marketplace?

I see nothing there about 5G. It says: “The service will work with T-Mobile’s own licensed spectrum only for now” So, special devices with special antennas and modems?

Globally track every phone via one network? And to connect to Musk’s network is not a positive thing to everyone. I’d like to look at the real stars in the night sky.

[edit: see corrections to OP later - there is an original source that’s better]


Correct. I have seen no statement regarding whether this is 4G or 5G.

I have seen it stated that it will (in the US) use 1900 MHz (which could be either 4G or 5G).

The stated applications (text, MMS, emergency voice calls) don’t suggest high bandwidth and hence don’t suggest a need for 5G. Any desire to provide an emergency service would suggest that 4G is better at the current time since some customers won’t have a 5G-capable phone. However if you are going to launch a satellite, you probably want the 5G support there from Day 1 because it won’t be easy to upgrade the hardware on orbit.

The emphasis there needs to be on “via one network” because the tracking capability may be coarser than tracking via conventional cell tower, and unlikely to be finer than what you already “accept” with your mobile phone.

They should have called it Skynet and we’d have no end of Arnold Schwarzenegger accented jokes! (Plus the gratis cameos for marketing.)

1 Like

It might also be that there is straight up 5G specced network in use somehow or something compatbile behind the scenes (not in connection from the satellite to the phone), as 5G network has some new innovations to control stuff, network loads and security etc.

The Starlink(Skynet) “Globally track every phone via one network” capability could be an SDR onboard each cube-sat that has HW that supports many modes(4G, $G-LTE, 5G, +). In that case the “network” would be in refrence to the cell band on the ground, but starlink’s network ??? just a thought.

Several 5G M.2 modems have been released, such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon X65 and X62 5G M.2 Modules, the Intel 5G Solution 5000 5G M.2 module (based on the Fibocom FM350-GL 5G and MediaTek T700 modems), the SIMCom SIM8200EA-M2, and the Quectel 5G RM50xQ series (e.g. RM500Q-GL) based on Qualcomm’s modem.

Both the SIM8200EA-M2 and RM50xQ support Linux, and there is work to add Linux support for the Intel 5G Solution 5000. However, the SIM8200EA-M2, RM50xQ and 5G Solution 5000 are 30x52 mm M.2 cards, so they won’t fit in the L5 which has a 30x42 mm M.2 slot. 5G modems generate a lot more heat than 4G modems, so they need larger heat spreaders than 4G modems. Maybe someone will figure out how to make a 5G 30x42mm M.2 card, but I haven’t seen any so far.

This article in Yahoo News says:

T-Mobile and SpaceX have announced a new technology alliance they’re calling “Coverage and Above and Beyond” that aims to end mobile deadzones. In an event at SpaceX’s Starbase facility, the companies have revealed that they’re working on integrating a slice of T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G spectrum into the second-gen Starlink satellites launching next year.

It sounds like T-Mobile is only planning to offer this in 5G, which makes sense, because 5G can share spectrum with 4G, and most rural areas where this service will be used will stay with 4G for the next decade, since it isn’t worth upgrading to 5G in those areas. By the time this service is actually functioning, I expect that the majority of cell phones will have 5G modems.

Given the flexibility of 5G compared to 4G, I’m guessing this service will only be offered in 5G, but maybe someone who knows more about this stuff will explain to me why I’m wrong.

I assume that Starlink cellular will keep just as detailed records with regard to the geolocation of calls/SMS as existing cellular service using towers, even though the Starlink satellites are moving at ~7.5 km/s (~17000 mph). SpaceX is looking to do this in collaboration with existing cellular carriers in every country, so any data on customers that is collected will go through the existing carriers, so the situation probably won’t be any better than the current status quo.

However, I wonder whether SpaceX will have have more ability to resist governments’ demands for customers’ data (when using the separate Starlink internet service with phase array dishes), since it won’t have as much infrastructure on the ground as other internet providers, so it is less subject to being pressured by governments. SpaceX depends heavily on the US government for its business and the US government shares its data with the other Five Eyes nations. However, for countries that don’t have a tight relationship with the US, I can see some benefit to having an internet provider like Starlink.

Apologies. I failed to notice that my linked article did not mention 5G. I saw the latest episode of “Ellie in Space” where she “interviewed” a SME who went into detail about the waveform and timing issues. The quotes are due to the fact that she didn’t understand most of what he said and mostly just let him speak.

If you want to see it, you can easily find it on Youtube. I don’t like to leave YT links. I only really use it to watch rocket launches and some space-related podcasts and wish I could get that content elsewhere.

Ah, that explains a lot. The tech makes more sense now, but I’m still not loving the network. That being said, there are undoubtedly areas around the globe where this could also be beneficial and helpful, not just convenient for some.



For a little levity: the recent Linux kernel version included LiFi (light transferring data from device to device). Would be interesting to have that used from hundreds of orbiting satellites… concentrated high powered light beams shooting down… [add sinister laughter - “they are just for data transfer and the power requirement is because of… clouds”] :smiling_imp:

1 Like

To be clear, my comment was on what the technology is capable of, not what the legal position is (what data is obliged to be collected and retained, who is so obliged).

So it’s a question of what the cell area will be for mobile-via-satellite. Looking online, it seems that Starlink is cagey even about revealing the cell area for the fixed, data service - and the cell area might be different for the mobile-via-satellite service. (People have tested the cell area for the fixed, data service, simply by moving their equipment without telling Starlink until the Starlink network starts ignoring them.)

Then there are all the questions about triangulation / trilateration. In the kinds of areas where mobile-via-satellite is filling in gaps in the mobile network, at best you will have signal-visibility of one tower and hence tri* is not possible and hence the location area is either the catchment of the entire tower (if sectors are not in use) or the sector of the catchment of the entire tower (if sectors are in use, usually 120°).

What will be the situation with mobile-via-satellite? Who knows?

Tell that to someone in any random middle-eastern country …

I would think that if you are hiding out in Abbottabad or Kabul, it would be extremely unwise to use Starlink. :wink:

The logic might apply well to, say, someone in China.

Well something needs to replace the old IMMARSAT, I imagine it is getting long in the tooth and full to capacity. If you knew the risks with that you have the same risks with Starlink. (Maybe competition will bring the IMMARSAT prices down?)

Just to take this a bit further down a different previous avenue: What would happen, if a 5G modem would be used on a L5? As far as I can tell, the settings only go as far as 4G (preference of network) and Calls may not be able to handle 5G voice. Data might be transferred at high speeds (depending on how antennas would work in that particular band/tower/area) but would L5 be able to keep up? I’ll ping this on @amosbatto and I quess maybe if @dos might hazard a guess…? A 5G modem is muuuch more expensive than a 4G to test just for fun so it would be nice to have at least a reasonable expectation for it to do anything.

That would speak to a driver issue, wouldn’t it?

I’m not troubleshooting, It’s theoretical ATM (… as in, for only for a little while now). There are many moving parts to get full use of something like that - or even the bare minimum. Is L5 ready for 5G even in theory?

I’m not saying you should, because its theoretical ATM. But your questions sound like hardware support questions.

I would think that the answer is: noone knows.

Prerequisites are obviously:

  • 5G is available in your area
  • a suitable 5G client device is available (and I think Amos is saying that he is not aware of the existence of any such device)

Regarding the lack of a M.2 module of the right size and the heat load issue, maybe a USB 5G dongle is an option. (However, as Amos raises above, there is no guarantee of suitable Linux support.) Worst case, if it doesn’t work at all with the Librem 5, you can at least try to use it with another computer.

Unfortunately a lot of more recent mobile dongles are actually wingles i.e. insist on offering the mobile service via a built-in WiFi Access Point. (It is highly likely that Librem 5 customers would not want that and it is a silly way of interfacing to a device that is plugged in directly.) However this probably rules out voice calls i.e. data only.

As with M.2 modems, this is a complete minefield of finding a dongle (or wingle) that supports the right mobile bands based on your country, choice of carrier, location within country.

I wouldn’t necessarily put any store in that. Best case is that the software is simply responding to options offered by the modem and if you had a modem offer 5G included in one of the modes then it would then be offered by the UI. Best case. (I mean most modern software and interfaces are designed like that but it is still possible for software to get confused when it is offered an option that is more recent than the software is.)

Really, as far as data goes, the computer shouldn’t have to know or care whether the modem is using 5G or 4G or …

Well not for the application as envisaged in the OP. Per that post, speed is not going to be the issue. In that situation, you will be grateful to get a connection at all and 5G speed is superfluous.

1 Like

Provided that ModemManager supports that modem and it provides audio over supported interface, I wouldn’t expect any problems… except of one deal breaker: lack of 5G antennas.