Apple targets aggressive 2022 timeline for its 5G modem – report

Apple iPhone 11
In July, Apple announced it would buy Intel's 5G smartphone modem business. (Apple)

Apple is reportedly chasing an aggressive 2022 timeline to get its own 5G modems into iPhones, but complexities of the task could push that date back until 2023, according to a new report from FastCompany.

In July, Apple announced a deal to buy Intel’s smartphone modem business for $1 billion, which at the time prompted media reports of an accelerated timeline for the iPhone-makers in-house 5G chip ambitions (a Reuters source pegged Apple’s then target as 2021).

FastCompany, citing a source with knowledge of Apple’s plans, suggested the company’s now two-year push for a 2022 introduction may not be realistic, given the time it takes for design, production and testing of a new modem.

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Apple already has a multi-year chipset supply agreement with Qualcomm, who has been the early leader in 5G smartphone chipsets will supply the modem for Apple’s first 5G iPhone, expected next year. That agreement was reached in April as part of settlement that saw the two tech giants drop all litigation against each other, abruptly ending the pair’s long-running legal battle over technology and licensing.   

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The same day, Intel, which had been supplying Apple with iPhone modems since relations with Qualcomm had soured, said it would exit the 5G smartphone business. Intel had also been working on a 5G modem for Apple, but gave up the business before that ever came to bear. Before Intel abandoned the 5G smartphone modem business there were concerns its 5G chip was behind schedule and would not be ready by the expected 2020 deadline.

In its $1 billion deal with Intel, Apple acquired equipment, leases, and IP, including 17,000 wireless technology patents.  

About 2,200 Intel workers also joined Apple, though it may actually be Qualcomm alum leading Apple’s 5G modem efforts, according to FastCompany’s source, who pointed to Esin Terziouglu, Qualcomm’s former VP of Engineering that joined Apple in 2017.

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