Apple Could Poach 5G Modem Experts From Qualcomm, Intel in San Diego

Apple Puts Modem Engineering Unit Into Chip Design Group

Previously, Apple's supply chain unit handled that project, the report said.

Worldwide wire agency Reuters has filed a report claiming that Apple has taken a decision to add the modem chip engineering unit to its in-house resources and a very senior official has been asked the head the function. Apple once used Qualcomm Inc chips exclusively but began phasing in Intel Corp chips in 2016 and dropped Qualcomm from iPhones released past year.

Though Apple designs and commissions the manufacturing of the iPhone's high-performing A Series chipsets, plenty of other components inside of Apple's phones are bought from other companies. Late past year, job listings indicated that Apple was looking to hire a lot of cellular modem systems architects, fueling rumors that Apple would start designing its own iPhone modems. Samsung and LG now build displays for the iPhone, for instance.

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The inclusion of the new team means that Apple could venture into the "in-house modem territory", severing dependency on the likes of Qualcomm, Intel, Samsung, and even MediaTek. Apple's timeline for coming out with its own modem chip could put it behind the initial launch of 5G phones, though it's been widely expected that the 2019 iPhones would lack 5G connectivity. For example, one of roughly two dozen job postings in the city by Apple is for a "senior embedded 5G/4G cellular firmware engineer" who will be "at the center of the embedded 5G/4G/multimode cellular firmware effort within a silicon design group responsible for designing and productizing state-of-the-art cellular SoCs", according to the company. Apple also said that it plans to build its own team in the local area. Apple has been selling around 200 million iPhones every year.

Thus, Apple's San Diego office could well stand as an attempt by the company to nab engineering talent from Qualcomm (the company that Apple previously purchased modems from) and Intel (the company Apple is now purchasing modems from). In the absence of actual details, we could always speculate that a future A-series chip that would incorporate an Apple modem would make flawless sense for an always-connected AR headset.

Apple may also benefit by combining its modem chips with its processor chips, as Samsung, Huawei and most other phone makers do.

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