Apple To Start Developing In-House Modems with Intel acquisition

Girl using new iPhone XS Max

Apple and Intel have announced an agreement which will see Apple acquire “the majority” of Intel’s smartphone modem business. An acquisition worth about $1 billion and shifts about 2,200 Intel employees to Apple. Kicking off the development of Apple’s own in-house modem for future Apple products.

The near future is all about 5G, the next-generation mobile wireless network technology. Already in Australia, Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone (eventually) are busy building thousands of 5G-enabled sites. Which will provide significant benefits over 4G in terms of speed, congestion, latency, and more.

Already there are a handful of 5G phones available with many more on their way. But what about a 5G iPhone? Or a 5G iPad or Apple Watch? A result of the acquisition will see Apple bring the development of their own 5G modem chip in-house. In other words, in the future, the chip inside Apple products allowing the connection between it and 5G wireless networks will be designed and engineered by Apple.

Benefits

The benefits have the potential to be huge. From tighter integration between the chip (hardware) and software, leading to better performance plus likely better battery life. There will be less reliance on Qualcomm, Apple’s current dominant supplier. One which Apple has accused of charging “disproportionately high” fees and resulted in a large court case – one which was dropped only recently.

“Apple is excited to have so many excellent engineers join our growing cellular technologies group, and know they’ll thrive in Apple’s creative and dynamic environment. They, together with our significant acquisition of innovative IP, will help expedite our development on future products and allow Apple to further differentiate moving forward.”

Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies.

Details of the acquisition include:

  • Approximately 2,200 Intel employees will join Apple
  • Along with intellectual property, equipment and leases
  • Apple will hold over 17,000 wireless technology patents, ranging from protocols for cellular standards to modem architecture and modem operation
  • Intel will retain the ability to develop modems for non-smartphone applications, such as PCs, internet-of-things devices and autonomous vehicles

There is no official word on when a 5G iPhone (or iPad, etc.) will be revealed. Latest reports have indicated, however, it will be during 2020. If that happens it will likely include a 5G Qualcomm modem as Apple’s own in-house modem will likely take some years to develop.

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