While 5G might seem like a pipe dream for the majority of us, it's definitely under development right now, and as networks all over the world try to maximize 4G LTE technologies, it won't be long before 5G starts to seem a very real reality. While infrastructure and even the very standard that all 5G networks will need to adhere to are still being designed, ARM this week is introducing their first modem chip that will enable device manufacturers all over the world to get ahead of the curve. The Cortex-R8 is a real-time processor and will succeed the current market-leader, the Cortex-A7.
To understand what the new Cortex-R8 is, we need to figure out why it's different to a Cortex-A processor, like the Cortex-A57 processors found in many higher-end smartphones. The Cortex-R line of processors are real-time processors, and predominantly find themselves being used in storage devices, such as SSDs and anything that needs to crunch numbers quickly, they're not designed for rich applications such as a full OS, like Android or iOS for instance, but more for shifting pure data around. When speaking to ARM during a briefing, it was stressed that while the Cortex-R8 will support "at least" the first generation of 5G connections, it's more likely to be used in LTE-Advanced Pro applications. These networks would use a combination of carrier aggregation and perhaps LTE Unlicensed spectrum and WiFi coming together. Using unused spectrum that's normally used for WiFi is already being tested by Qualcomm and Verizon right now.
The Cortex-R8 is built around ARM v7-R instruction sets and will be hitting manufacturers later this year, enabling work to begin on the next-generation of modems and real-time processors that help us get online in a speedy fashion. Compatible with existing software solutions and scalable all the way up to impressive quad-core designs, the Cortex-R8 is ready for tomorrow's 5G and will likely start being used in smartphones and tablets some time next year. With support for LTE-Advanced Pro and likely the first-generation of 5G networks, ARM has a solution that will please the majority of hardware vendors out there, and presumably make it much easier for device manufacturers to get hardware ready for new 5G networks in the near future.