Report: Intel has a 'small army' of employees working to get LTE modem into iPhone 7

Intel has at least 1,000 employees working with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) to get Intel's 7360 LTE modem chipset into Apple's 2016 iPhones, according to a VentureBeat report. The report, citing unnamed sources, said Intel might end up providing the modem as well as the fabrication for a new Apple system-on-a-chip for the iPhone.

The report said Intel is pushing aggressively to get its modems into at least some of the iPhones Apple rolls out in 2016, which presumably will be called the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and could be blockbuster devices on par with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Such a deal with Apple would provide a significant boost to Intel's wireless ambitions and hit Intel rival Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), which has been the sole provider of LTE modems for the iPhone (Qualcomm's MDM9635M LTE Cat. 6 modem is in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus).

The 7360 chip is capable of theoretical peak downlink speeds of 450 Mbps, supports Category 9/10 LTE and 3x carrier aggregation.

An Intel spokeswoman declined to comment. 

As VentureBeat notes, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said during the company's third-quarter earnings call that Intel's next-generation 7360 modem chipset will be shipping by the end of this year, with products to be announced by Intel's customers next year. 

The project is demanding a "small army" of Intel employees because of the complexity of the operation, Intel's strong desire to get such a significant design win and Apple's demands as an OEM partner. The report added that Apple has not officially inked a deal with Intel for the silicon giant to be a supplier but that a deal will come together if Intel keeps hitting its milestones.

In addition to working on modems, Apple wants to create an SoC that combines its Ax application processor, which it designs in-house and has Samsung Electronics and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co fabricate, with the LTE modem. That could help improve the iPhone's performance and battery life. Apple would design the SoC, the report said, which would carry an Apple brand name, and would then license the LTE modem intellectual property from Intel for the SoC. Intel would then fabricate the SoC using its 14-nanometer process, the report added.

Intel also recently confirmed it acquired the CDMA modem assets of VIA Telecom. That could help Intel's case, allowing it to more easily design modem chips that can work in China and the United States, the two largest CDMA markets.

This isn't the first time the Intel/iPhone rumor has popped up. VentureBeat reported in March that Intel was aiming to get the 7360 chip into the iPhone.

For more:
- see this VentureBeat article
- see this The Verge article 

Related articles:
Intel continues to pare mobile losses, buys CDMA modem assets from VIA Telecom
Intel still on track to cutting mobile losses, plans LTE chip for entry-level phones in early 2016
Rumor Mill: Intel's modem chips could be in 50% of new iPhone shipments
Report: Some of Apple's next iPhones will use LTE chips from Intel