5G LTE expansion card

Strong possibility a 5G LTE expansion card will be made for the laptop?


We’re hoping to see third party development of cellular Expansion Cards!


Given that there don’t seem to be any USB C cellular dongles on the market for any devices, I’m not too confident in third parties making cellular expansion cards for the FL.

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There are several LTE M.2 key cards. Maybe if there was an expansion card that just housed an M.2 key slot?

The real trick would be the antenna.


Are we limiting ourselves to the standard expansion card form factor? Why not a card that pokes out of the standard frame and can be longer/sit flush with the frame, it might work depending on the stiffness of the rails which the expansion card rides in…


Oversized cards are certainly possible. The Ethernet Expansion Card we are developing will be oversized for example.


I sure would like to be able to use my Framework laptop for work, for which I would need an LTE connection. I’m hoping Framework can sell lots of these laptops and create a vibrant 1st and 3rd party expansion card market. Wishing Framework success!


Verizon MiFi USB620L heres an example of a usb A version I dont know if there are any makers out there who would know how to shrink it down.

I was weighing the practicality of making a 3rd party module myself, so I’ve just looked into that device you linked, and it seems like the company that makes that also sells mPCIe cell modules (a “module” is apparently just a modem on a circut board with a SIM card holder) https://novotech.com/sma-male-to-n-female-fll195-1-foot.html. So basicially, It seems like you could just buy one of those, and as long as it has compatable drivers with your OS, you could replace your wifi chip with one of those. the only problem is that you wouldn’t have WiFi, but making a WiFi module would be easier. Also maybe it wouldn’t fit in the laptop’s mPCIE.

Maybe what would be a better idea is a generic thunderbolt to mPcie module? I don’t know, at this point maybe are you better off just getting a normal usb-a cellular module.

Also I’ve surmised 5G tech seems to be hard to get ahold of at the moment.


If these oversized cards are done by making the card taller, as some have suggested, we will also need an oversized USB-C card. (Everybody has at least one of those because you need it to power and charge.) The reason is that installing only ONE oversized card would unbalance the system and keep it from sitting properly on a desk; installing one on the other side that matches its height would maintain proper balance.

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I’ve been looking for 5g cards that could replace the Intel AX210 which is just a standard M.2 card. Theoretically you could get a 5g modem in that form factor (from other laptop manufacturers) but what I’m running into issues with is finding one with onboard SIM readers. It seems that OEMs all are running their modems internally without an actual SIM reader since they move it all out to the laptop chassis to make it easier for their customers.
Something like one of these: 5G Datacard 5G NGFF 5G M.2

Should be possible, hopefully someone will make one eventually. Either that or maybe we could focus on getting an eSIM from the carriers which would work as well, but for now I’m still looking…

Can a board like this be used to add a m.2 enclosure to connect a 5G module like this?

If this is possible, I think 5g expansion card is doable.

I’ve been thinking about what it would take to hack an existing 4G M.2 card in and whether it would be possible to run the antenna through the display frame (like how it is currently installed in my Lenovo X1 Carbon gen5). As @Joseph_Conlin mentions, connecting a SIM reader would be the main challenge, I think.

I’m a big fan of a “always connected” laptop and hate dongles as they are usually poorly supported and well look bulky.

Just would like to add my support even if the expansion card is like $100 because obviously cellular modems aren’t cheap.

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This has been discussed elsewhere and there’s definitely demand and potential for it https://community.frame.work/t/5g-lte-expansion-card/1606/6

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Love the idea of oversized cards, since it would make room for for example multiple ports in one module that can’t fit in a regular card. I’d buy exclusively oversized cards if possible, since the more ports the better as far as I’m concerned.

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Just to add some ideas, there are these USB 3.0 cards that have an M.2 NGFF slot for a cellular modem as well as a sim slot on the board and antenna connectors: https://www.amazon.com/NGFF-Adapter-Dual-Nano-Module/dp/B08B4LM5GR/145-2693137-4179731?psc=1

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Maybe a bit niche…probably more ‘flexible’ just to use a dual sim phone or a secondary phone for that. Stick an NFC tag sticker on the Framework, swipe the phone to it, turn on mobile hotspot by itself via the tag.

While the expansion card is great, the use case for 5G expansion card vs the above workaround…means the expansion card is rather expensive to make, just for the Framework expansion card form factor. (compare to other cards, and scale of the target users)

Also, this is the reason why the demand for cellular connectivity in laptops have been declining since 2010. Mobile hotspots have been taking over. Anyone with a modern phone already have this capability, no need for additional hardware that’s laptop-specific.

The other benefit of the mobile hotspot is that you can place the phone away from the laptop, place the phone near a window or something…while you’re sitting in the corner of a densely populated server room. (better reception)


With the specific scenario of an embedded modem in an expansion card too, there’s a problem with antenna sise and it being buried in a conductive aluminum frame of the laptop chassis. Further signal problems.


I hear you - I hunted down the 4G components for my Lenovo X1 Carbon and installed them myself. I had to purchase in two parts - the Sierra AirPrime (sounds like an Amazon product) M2 card and the antenna kit.

The notable challenges here are that the X1 Carbon had an extra M2 slot and two special carve-outs in the case for the antenna modules. I don’t know of any Wifi/5g combo modules that would let you get away with a single M2 slot, but that’s worth looking into. You’re right to point out that the real challenge is the antenna - the X1 Carbon’s chassis was designed to accommodate 4G antennas.

I think the ideal approach might be an expansion card with a connector for an external antenna. No, it’s not as sleek as the X1 Carbon’s setup, but with some cable management and velcro/magnet, you could attach it to the back of the screen and it wouldn’t be too unsightly.

Also note the 4G M2 card in the picture, it’s quite a bit wider than the wifi M2 card. The SIM card is clear on the other side of the laptop, in a tray that also has a micro SD slot.

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