Thursday, Jun 30, 2022, 14:36 Economy

Report: Apple Meets Difficulty In Development Of First Cellular Modem – Continued Reliance On Qualcomm

Edit:
This article was updated in light of new information on 06/30/22. The added information is located at the end of the article.

Many years ago, Intel began work on developing a cellular modem. Intel's final product and first ever cellular modem for 4G networks ended up being a poor choice in comparison to the competition, whereas the 5G variant never came to light. Apple, on the other hand, was optimistic that it would be more capable of taming the wild bronco and gain an appropriate handle on the complex development of an in-house cellular modem intended for usage in devices as early as 2023. In light of legal disagreements with Qualcomm, the ambitious goal was to create all essential components for iPhone and iPad in-house within only a few years. As previously mentioned, there was serious indication that a total switch to reliance on in-house cellular modems was intended by 2023. Qualcomm was even preparing for as much and accounting for a lower volume in contracts as per the chip specialist's annual report.

Plans For 2023 Failed – Continued Efforts Likely Unaffected
A new report points to Apple having reached a roadblock in development and suggests that the company will be unable to realize plans of a 2023 release. The normally very well-informed market expert, Ming Chi-Kuo, indicates sources confirming that 100% of the iPhones modems produced in 2023 will come from Qualcomm. As per the short report, Apple's previous release ambitions have been thwarted – for the time being. Although a complete cancellation of the project seems very unlikely, Apple will have to account for considerable delays.

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Grounds For Celebration At Qualcomm
For Qualcomm, the news is welcome in more ways than one. Firstly, the company will retain one of its largest customers – and secondly, the company is currently working on expansion into other new fields so that it won't crash and burn should Apple eventually leave it as a customer. The new contract gives them a little bit more time and some of the financial means needed to prepare for the potential release of a Cupertino-designed modem and the financial impact that this would mean for Qualcomm. Thus, the chip manufacturer's numbers will be better than expected until at least 2024, ruling out another delay in the release of an Apple cellular modem. The event also means that Apple will be losing another opportunity to differentiate the iPhone from other companies, as the Qualcomm chip set for implementation will be the same as in all other high value smartphones.

The Massive Challenge Presented By Modems
Compared to the development cellular modems, development of a conventional chip or system processor could almost be defined as a simple task. It's not the hardware that represents the complicated aspect of designing a competent cellular modem, it's the mobile networks that do so. Each mobile network has its own unique characteristics. A smartphone modem has to not only support each individual constellation of networks, it also has to provide backwards compatibility for older standards.

UPDATE: Qualcomm Patents As Reason
According to a report from Patently Apple as well as Foss Patents, the delays are not due to unsolvable technical hurdles but rather legal disagreements with Qualcomm. Until Apple invalidates two of Qualcomm's patents, its cellular modem won't be able to see the light of day. The chances of the aforementioned occurring aren't bright, as the Supreme Court just denied Cupertino's request for another hearing. This is why Apple is currently unable to continue with its plans or an in-house cellular modem by 2023. One solution in the meantime would be to set up a royalty contract with Qualcomm, however, given the current legal situation – Qualcomm would bear a very heavy hand in the negotiations.

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