Does Purism Plan on Adding 5G as an Option for the Librem 5?

We’re going on 7 years since 5G was introduced back in 2016, and while I don’t expect grassroots tech companies like Purism to adopt new technologies like 5G overnight, I’m wondering if Purism has any plans to adopt 5G in the near future?

You see, I’m on the fence about purchasing a Purism L5 mainly because the reason for me being in the market for a new phone to begin with is that my current phone will stop working as of December 31, 2022 as the “great tower shutdown” of older generations of cellular networks will commence on that day. Clearly I’ll need a new phone by then, but I want one that will last me many years to come. As it stands, my current phone has outlasted the older generations of networks which shows you just how much life I got out of my old phone (10+ years).

I don’t want to spend money on a new Librem 5 only for another tower shutdown to cut short the life of my phone. I want that thing to last as long as humanly possible, so I would like the option to purchase a Librem 5 with 5G. That way, I can extend the life of my new phone for another 10 years.


It could be simple: get an L5 now and install a 5G modem later. But as has been mentioned elsewhere, there’s no guarantee that that would be sufficient (and someone smarter than me could point out why it wouldn’t, eg it would need a new antenna setup, modem’s too power hungry or hot, etc).


Wait, are these phone really that easy to take apart and install new hardware in? If so, I might buy one on that principle alone. In any case, you bring up a good point about needing a new antenna setup; and it certainly won’t be easy. I can’t even imagine the kind of equipment I would need to buy to set that up (my NanoVNA V2, for example, tops out at 4GHz while 5G tops out at 300GHz!). Is there even anything on the consumer market that reaches that sort of level? I can’t even imagine.

With that being said, you can see why I’d like Purism themselves to officially support 5G. Even if I can easily take apart and cold swap hardware, I wouldn’t have the equipment necessary to properly set it up.


The current modem is on an M.2 card. If you need to replace it, you unplug the antenna wires and swap the card out. Upgrading to 5G could be that easy, assuming firmware, drivers, power, antennae, etc can work with it.



Apart from that I imagine the shit storm if Librem 5 had a 5G modem and 1 hour of battery life.


Oh goodness no! I’m no expert in antenna theory, but my past experience with ham radio can tell you at least two things:

#1. At the very least, you’re going to need a new antenna. 4G LTE tops out at 3.8 GHz. 5G tops out at 300 GHz. As you can see, in no way are you going to be able to run 5G on a 4G antenna.

#2. After installation, you’re going to need something to measure your antenna’s performance; but at bare minimum SWR. A V2 NanoVNA could do this with a 4G LTE antenna (as its upper limit was 4 GHz), but as far as I’m aware, there is absolutely nothing on the consumer market that could measure the performance of a 5G antenna. That would be lab only kind of equipment, and good luck getting your hands on that.

So no, I don’t think that upgrading to 5G is something the consumer could do at home. At least not right now. That’s why we would need official manufacturer support.


I totally get what you’re saying, but phones currently exist that support 5G and don’t have a 1 hour battery life. Obviously, it isn’t a shirt storm if other manufacturers can do it.

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Right, I didn’t figure it’d be that easy, just speaking theoretically. But speaking to a previous point you observed, you can dismantle the entire phone. (youtube video with Todd Weaver)


It depends on whether you just want to use a phone with 5G (i.e. you don’t want the phone to stop working, you don’t want to have to bin the phone and buy another one) v. you want to fully utilise 5G (in which case no phones on the market today will be able utilise the full capability of 5G - and all current phones from all manufacturers will have to be thrown out).

As it stands today, “300 GHz” is marketing guff.

5G is available on frequencies that are quite mundane, and that could work with the current antenna. However right now you would be taking the integration risk and I would guess that there are priorities for Purism other than 5G support right now.


Not necessity true:

  • 5G uses also the current frequencies.
  • 300 GHz needs a 100x smaller antenna then ca. 3 GHz. This small antenna could be easily placed on the M.2 card.

Most of the world is focusing on 5G for sub-6GHz frequencies, so their cell phones can use the same antennas as 4G. The problem with the mmWave frequencies is that they can be blocked by obstructions, so you need direct line of sight with the cellular tower. Phones designed for mmWave 5G need antennas along all 4 edges of the phone to deal with people’s hands blocking the signal when holding the phone, and many of them have 6 or 7 different antennas inside them.

Amother thing is that the frequencies over 95 GHz are basically useless for cellular communication because the signal is too short and too easily blocked. The US is only using 24 - 47 GHz for its mmWave 5G, and most carriers outside the US have decided that 5G over 6GHz is not worth it, so they aren’t bothering with mmWave 5G.


Fully agree. For daily use 5G is more a marketing thing than really needed on a smart phone. (maybe for competitive gaming …?)

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You have nothing to worry about. 5G is designed to share spectrum space with 4G, so it can be implemented without shutting down existing 4G networks. There is still massive investment in 4G and the amount of 4G coverage is actually expanding, because the cellular carriers know that it won’t be disappearing any time soon. Ericsson, which is the 2nd largest Telecom equipment maker in the world, says that 85% of the world’s population had 4G coverage at the end of 2021, and expects that percentage to grow to 95% in 2027.

According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), by the end of 2021, there were 906 carriers in 243 countries, which were investing in LTE (i.e. 4G), compared to 487 carriers in 145 countries, which were investing in 5G networks. Of those investing in 5G, only 99 carriers in 50 countries were investing in 5G standalone networks, meaning that the vast majority are planning to operate dual 4G and 5G networks.

I expect 4G to still be around for at least the next 15 years, and probably longer.


Given the Librem 5’s already massive power consumption with huge battery to compensate, would a more power-hungry modem even make that big of a difference?




To add to the confusion, Starlink is licensed now to deploy 20K new Starlink satellites in to orbit. Spacex is currently at about 3K starlink satellites currently deployed and are adding new satellites at the rate of around 30 new satellites per launch and with several launches taking place per week every week now.

Starlink has a deal with T-Mobile as well. Within the next few years sometime, your T-Mobile phone service will work everywhere on earth. When you make a call, the phone will look for the T-Mobile nwtwork first. If it can’t find a T-mobile tower, it will look for roaming via other carriers. If no roaming is available, it will reach out directly to a Starlink satellite in low earth orbit. So whether you’re at the south pole, in the middle of the Amazon jungle, or in the middle of the ocean, your cell phone will still work. I don’t know how they get around the requirement for a satellite dish and how they can blanket the cell tower frequencies from space without causing havoc.


More power drain is to me not something I’m willing to accept from my L5.
Also, 4G has for me more then enough data troughput. I do not see the need for 5G or higher.


The last time I looked at this issue, there were no 5G M.2 modems in the 30 x 42 x 2.5 mm form factor, because the 5G modems were too power hungry and they needed a larger heat spreader than could fit on that size of M.2 card. However, the industry has figured out how to make 5G modems that consume less power and need less heat dissipation, so there are now 30x42mm 5G M.2 modems that support Linux and USB on the market. (I don’t think the L5 supports PCIe over M.2.) For example: Cinterion MV31 Ultra High Speed IoT Modem Card (5G)

At this point, all carriers at still supporting 4G and probably will continue to for the next decade at least, so there isn’t a compelling reason to upgrade to a 5G modem in my opinion, because it will consume more energy than a 4G modem, but maybe some people need the lower latency and high bandwidth of 5G. mmWave 5G won’t be possible on the L5 without a significant redesign of the phone, because it will need additional antennas on every edge of the phone.

Given that it is now technically possible, it would be interesting to know whether Purism plans to offer a sub-6GHz 5G modem card for the L5. Frankly, I think it is low priority, but maybe others feel differently.

@StevenR , SpaceX says that their Direct To Cell (D2C) service will work on normal 4G LTE modems, so it should work on the L5. It is designed for low bandwidth communications when outside the range of the carrier’s cell towers.


My brain is tingling after reading this thread. I think it’s growing. I don’t think I have ever learned so much useful information in such a short read.

You guys are amazing.

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Let’s get a RELIABLE 4G modem before we look at anything else. If anything they should look for alternative 4G modems that are maybe not as troublesome?

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