Intel’s modem challenges may delay 5G iPhone until 2021

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Apple aiming to deploy its own 5G modem in iPhones by 2022
Don't expect your super-speedy iPhone connectivity until 2021.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Update: In a statement, Intel says: “As we said in November 2018, Intel plans to support customer device launches in 2020 with its XMM 8160 5G multimode modem.”

Apple replaced Qualcomm with Intel when it comes to producing modem chips for iPhones. But now Intel is the subject of its own “increasingly stormy” relationship with Apple — and the immediate future of 5G iPhones is at stake.

According to a new report, Intel was supposed to be the main provider of 5G modem chips for Apple’s 2020 iPhone. However, it has continually missed deadlines along the way. As a result, users may not get the super-fast iPhone connectivity they’re hoping for until a bit later.

The chip Intel is working on is called the XMM 8160 5G modem. As per Fast Company, to get 5G chips ready for a September 2020 iPhone launch, Intel needs to deliver sample parts to Apple by early summer this year. It must then deliver its finished modem design early next year.

In November last year, Intel indicated that it would ship its 8160 5G modem in the second half of 2019. But after seemingly falling behind, Apple may be losing patience. Fast Company notes: “Apple has lost confidence in Intel to deliver the chip, our source says.”

A demanding client

The article also details some of the problems between Apple and Intel. Apparently the role of managing the Apple relationship has been a tricky one. It has already seen “at least three project managers.”

Apple has negotiated a good deal for Intel chips which leaves Intel making relatively little profit. In addition, Apple insists that Intel prioritize it over other clients. Intel was willing to go along with this because of the size of the potential Apple order.

Apple has recently held talks with Samsung and Mediatek about supplying 5G modem chips in the near future. But these are unlikely to be ready for 2020. And Qualcomm, the market leader in 5G research, is still battling Apple in court.

Building its own chips

Against this background, Apple is also getting ready to design its own modem chips. It has supposedly assembled a team of 1,000 to 1,200 engineering working on future iPhone modem chips.

These could be designed by Apple and built by TSMC or Samsung. But, again, they won’t won’t be ready until at least 2021.

This chimes with a report from yesterday, issued by UBS analyst Timothy Arcuri. In a note to clients, Arcuri suggests that the chance of a 5G-capable iPhone for 2020 are “not good.”

Source: Fast Company