Apple cracks on with building its own mobile modems


Apple currently relies on modems designed by Qualcomm.
Photo: Qualcomm

Apple has started building its own cellular modems for use in future devices. Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, made the announcement to employees Thursday during a virtual town hall meeting.

The company currently relies on Qualcomm modems, after restoring its relationship with the company following a prolonged clash over patents and royalties. However, Apple has made no bones about its desire to bring this part of its manufacturing in-house. It even bought Intel’s modem business for $1 billion in 2019, the second-largest acquisition in Apple history.

“This year, we kicked off the development of our first internal cellular modem which will enable another key strategic transition,” Srouji told staff Thursday. “Long-term strategic investments like these are a critical part of enabling our products and making sure we have a rich pipeline of innovative technologies for our future.”

Srouji didn’t give an exact timeline on when Apple’s modems would be ready. However, the 2019 patent agreement between Apple and Qualcomm specifies six years of licensing. Apple could, of course, opt to launch its own modems right away (if they were ready.) But Qualcomm charges Apple whether or not its chips are actually used.

Apple builds its own chips

Apple is no stranger to designing its own chips. It’s been developing its own A-series chips for the iPhone for years. It also designs its Apple Silicon M1 chips, the U1 ultra-wideband chip and other custom processors.

From Apple’s perspective, bringing things in house comes with all sorts of advantages. It allows Apple to better control the development process. It also avoids scenarios like the Qualcomm fallout. In that case, a dispute suddenly left Apple in need of a cellular modem maker.

If Apple’s history with chip design is anything to go on, we should be excited about the company developing proprietary cellular modems.

Source: Bloomberg


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