Qualcomm must license modem tech to rivals like Intel, court rules

Posted:
in iPhone
Denying a motion to delay court proceedings while settlement talks are ongoing, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh on Tuesday issued a preliminary ruling against Qualcomm in the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust lawsuit.

Qualcomm offices


Qualcomm must license some of the patents it holds for smartphone modems to firms like Intel, Koh ruled according to Reuters. The company is accused of forcing companies like Apple to buy its wireless chips in exchange for better patent royalty rates.

In fact Apple was in an exclusive modem supply arrangement with Qualcomm for several years, but started mixing in Intel chips with 2016's iPhone 7, and is now Intel-only with the iPhone XS and XR.

The FTC case is related to an Apple action dating back to January 2017. Apple filed a $1 billion lawsuit shortly thereafter, marking the beginning of a global legal war, compounded by actions from various government bodies and Qualcomm accusations that Apple handed trade secrets to Intel to improve chip performance.

In August, Qualcomm reached a settlement with Taiwanese antitrust regulators, avoiding a $773 million fine in exchange for paying $93 million and investing $700 million in the country over the course of five years. It has also made deals with parties like Samsung, which like Apple is a major phone customer.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    thttht Posts: 2,965member
    Qualcomm reached a settlement with Taiwanese antitrust regulators, avoiding a $773 million fine in exchange for paying $93 million and investing $700 million in the country over the course of five years.

    Ugh, this is so short sighted. Nation states should force QCOM to license their SEP at FRAND rates based on the cost of the modem. Make it as cheap as possible. This makes the most economic sense for a place like Taiwan as everyone and their couch surfing amateur OEM will be able to put LTE modems into their devices. This means more business for TSMC, more business for OEMs, more business for carriers, so on and so forth. Commoditizing modems enables more. Instead, they go for a pittance and let QCOM use their SEP rate practices go on.

    Dollars to donuts, Apple will have their own Apple design cellular modem hardware, on a separate chip or right into the SoC die. Driving licensing rates for SEP to costs of the components is a big deal for them.
    mark fearingMagentaPaladinmagman1979lolliverlostkiwiMuntzjony0
  • Reply 2 of 39
    I really hope they resolve this quickly, because based on my owning every model of iPhone from 2007 to the Max, there’s no question that the QUALCOMM modem is far superior to the Intel version. I  was so fortunate to have QUALCOMM modems in my iPhones right up through iPhone X.  As much as I love my Max,  I’m very disappointed with the quality of the Intel modem. Apple, are you listening? 
    williamlondonlostkiwi
  • Reply 3 of 39
    Qualcomm is one of my least favorite tech companies. They really seem one step above a patent troll. For those who are all screaming about Qualcomm making better modems, hate to tell you it's one element in a complicated system. Not that big ideal. But them using this to force purchases of their other devices ETC is the problem. They really should do something else worthwhile. 
    MagentaPaladinmagman1979chaickalolliverlostkiwineo-techMuntzjbdragonjony0
  • Reply 4 of 39
    chasmchasm Posts: 993member
    bluefire1 said:
    there’s no question that the QUALCOMM modem is far superior to the Intel version. I was so fortunate to have QUALCOMM modems in my iPhones right up through iPhone X.
    I’m calling BS on this. “Far” superior? Show me some independent testing that confirms this. Also, Qualcomm isn’t an acronym. Finally, you’ve owned every single model of iPhone from the original to the Max? Yeah, you’re either a QCOM employee or just trolling.
    mwhiteericthehalfbeemagman1979chaickawilliamlondonlolliverracerhomie3Rayz2016pbruttomike1
  • Reply 5 of 39
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,294member
    bluefire1 said:
    I really hope they resolve this quickly, because based on my owning every model of iPhone from 2007 to the Max, there’s no question that the QUALCOMM modem is far superior to the Intel version. I  was so fortunate to have QUALCOMM modems in my iPhones right up through iPhone X.  As much as I love my Max,  I’m very disappointed with the quality of the Intel modem. Apple, are you listening? 
    Nonsense.  While from a pure technical standpoint, one could make the argument that Qualcomm is ahead of the game, but from the end-user's perception... there is little to ZERO difference in real-world performance.  This has already be discussed.

    I don't care how "fast" QC's modems are since the infrastructure is not there and won't be for at least a couple more years.  Quite making stuff up.
    bonobobwilliamlondonlollivercornchipchasmmike1jbdragonjkichlineStrangeDaysjony0
  • Reply 6 of 39
    bluefire1 said:
    I really hope they resolve this quickly, because based on my owning every model of iPhone from 2007 to the Max, there’s no question that the QUALCOMM modem is far superior to the Intel version. I  was so fortunate to have QUALCOMM modems in my iPhones right up through iPhone X.  As much as I love my Max,  I’m very disappointed with the quality of the Intel modem. Apple, are you listening? 
    My house is located at the base of a bluff with the nearest tower located on the top and about a half mile back.  My family room is located in the basement.  I have zero issues with Intel radios on MY Max. 
    williamlondonneo-tech
  • Reply 7 of 39

    chasm said:
    bluefire1 said:
    there’s no question that the QUALCOMM modem is far superior to the Intel version. I was so fortunate to have QUALCOMM modems in my iPhones right up through iPhone X.
    I’m calling BS on this. “Far” superior? Show me some independent testing that confirms this. Also, Qualcomm isn’t an acronym. Finally, you’ve owned every single model of iPhone from the original to the Max? Yeah, you’re either a QCOM employee or just trolling.
    Maybe both. 
    williamlondoncornchipchasmmike1jbdragon
  • Reply 8 of 39
    bluefire1 said:
    I really hope they resolve this quickly, because based on my owning every model of iPhone from 2007 to the Max, there’s no question that the QUALCOMM modem is far superior to the Intel version. I  was so fortunate to have QUALCOMM modems in my iPhones right up through iPhone X.  As much as I love my Max,  I’m very disappointed with the quality of the Intel modem. Apple, are you listening? 
    In the real-world use cases and in-country as well as abroad countries usages, there is no difference from a consumer/user perspective. There are far more factors influencing the real-world usage and throughput then just technical specifications and whatever story some of the medias cook up.

    Here is one real-world example:
    One of my line with telco ST is on legacy plan (early/first 4G plan back then) and have not re-contract over several years. The telco simply locks this line to the plan (along with the profile in the backend) so even now with iPhone X and XS, this line does not gain any higher speed/throughput despite the LTE modem in them are capable of. In short, the telco has locked this line to legacy LTE profile and unless this line renews to newer plans under contract again, it will not gain any higher speed/throughput. Hence, even if Qualcomm's modem is marginally better in performance than Intel's modem, it makes no difference to me (or whoever in my household using this line). I am not alone on this scenario. At least I know a few of my personal friends are the same since legacy plans have higher data volume (12GB or 25GB per month) than newer plans which significantly reduced to 2-3GB per month for the same price (forcing us to sign up add-ons which indirectly is telco squeezing us to pay more and more for data volume consumption). To have the same 12GB or 25GB, the cost of new plans+add-ons is easily 3-4 times more expensive.

    To summarize, I don't really care if Qualcomm's modem is indeed better in performance. In iPhone X and XS, the Intel's modem serves its purpose good enough (easily hitting 50-60Mbps which is more than enough for most smartphone uses, even watching video streams from Netflix or local provider's Toggle).
    cornchippbruttojbdragon
  • Reply 9 of 39
    chasm said:
    bluefire1 said:
    there’s no question that the QUALCOMM modem is far superior to the Intel version. I was so fortunate to have QUALCOMM modems in my iPhones right up through iPhone X.
    I’m calling BS on this. “Far” superior? Show me some independent testing that confirms this. Also, Qualcomm isn’t an acronym. Finally, you’ve owned every single model of iPhone from the original to the Max? Yeah, you’re either a QCOM employee or just trolling.
    Um, I still have my two 3GSes, 4, 4S, 5, 5S, 6, 7 Plus, X. Yes, I skipped 6S due to a financial constraint. XS Max is on schedule for a December purchase. I’m not a Qualcomm employee nor a troll. It is possible bluefire1 is telling the truth about ownership. 

    As for modems, Qualcomm and Intel modems drop service at the same spots for me thanks to AT&T. 
    williamlondongatorguy
  • Reply 10 of 39
    I am totally disgusted with the idea/approach where the same chip/component costs more on some devices and significantly less on other devices. This is so wrong. Anything on SEP should be same cost/price (except bulk volume discounts which is typical of many industries other than semi-con) to every device maker out there - be it big firm or small firm.
    mac_dogjbdragon
  • Reply 11 of 39
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,432member
    bluefire1 said:
    I really hope they resolve this quickly, because based on my owning every model of iPhone from 2007 to the Max, there’s no question that the QUALCOMM modem is far superior to the Intel version. I  was so fortunate to have QUALCOMM modems in my iPhones right up through iPhone X.  As much as I love my Max,  I’m very disappointed with the quality of the Intel modem. Apple, are you listening? 
    No one here believes you can tell the difference. 

    But I’m sure you know that already. 
    edited November 6 StrangeDays
  • Reply 12 of 39
    chasmchasm Posts: 993member
    Would be interesting to know if Koh forced “QUALCOMM” to license those patents on FRAND terms or not.
    libertyforall
  • Reply 13 of 39
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 2,888member
    sflocal said:
    bluefire1 said:
    I really hope they resolve this quickly, because based on my owning every model of iPhone from 2007 to the Max, there’s no question that the QUALCOMM modem is far superior to the Intel version. I  was so fortunate to have QUALCOMM modems in my iPhones right up through iPhone X.  As much as I love my Max,  I’m very disappointed with the quality of the Intel modem. Apple, are you listening? 
    Nonsense.  While from a pure technical standpoint, one could make the argument that Qualcomm is ahead of the game, but from the end-user's perception... there is little to ZERO difference in real-world performance.  This has already be discussed.

    I don't care how "fast" QC's modems are since the infrastructure is not there and won't be for at least a couple more years.  Quite making stuff up.
    I suppose you are referring to the new iPhones which are only a few weeks old. The difference between last year's X and gigabit modems (from both last year and this year) can be very noticeable.

    Of course, more factors come into play, as the modem is only part of the story but in January this year, competitors almost doubled the iPhone X download speeds - for example, in San Francisco.

    There are parts of the world with very good backbone networks and if you happen to live in one of those areas, the difference will be very noticeable. With the new iPhones and the gigabit modems in them, the difference has been reduced but will still be noticeable when compared to the Cat 21 modems in competing phones (especially as more backbone networks get upgraded).
    edited November 7
  • Reply 14 of 39
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,351member
    chasm said:
    Would be interesting to know if Koh forced “QUALCOMM” to license those patents on FRAND terms or not.
    What are "FRAND terms"? Serious question to you.


    edited November 7
  • Reply 15 of 39
    noelosnoelos Posts: 101member
    gatorguy said:
    chasm said:
    Would be interesting to know if Koh forced “QUALCOMM” to license those patents on FRAND terms or not.
    What are "FRAND terms"? Serious question to you.


    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=frand+patent+licensing


    StrangeDays
  • Reply 16 of 39
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,632member
    The reason Apple and other phone manufacturers don't like Qualcomm because of it's outrageous patent charging. Charge for chips and charge when put in phone or tablet. Moreover, more charge if you use it in high priced phone and if use more bands on phone. Give me break, Moreover, as time goes by, Intel's modem will be if not better than as good as Qualcomm. If Apple going to use Intel modem than it will not get free pass by Apple.
  • Reply 17 of 39
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 767member
    What was most telling was the story a couple weeks ago how Apple owed Qualcomm $7 billion in disputed royalty payments. That shows just how much QC abused their position by gouging companies (and ultimately consumers.)

    Re: modem speeds, I've read stories here on AI and other places that talk about modem speeds and did tests showing the QC modems were faster and appeared to have better amplifiers to pull in weak signal, but because of the inherent variables in these systems. Ultimately, I think variables in antennas and signal play a bigger roll and overshadow the differences between the modems.
  • Reply 18 of 39
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,351member
    noelos said:
    gatorguy said:
    chasm said:
    Would be interesting to know if Koh forced “QUALCOMM” to license those patents on FRAND terms or not.
    What are "FRAND terms"? Serious question to you.


    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=frand+patent+licensing


    Cute, but doesn't answer the question of what the OP means by FRAND terms. I already have a good idea what is allowed and what isn't. Since you chimed in and know how to use a search box do you personally think licensing based on a percentage of end product cost or revenues can meet the criteria for FRAND-compliant? That seems to be a big sticking point for many here. 
    edited November 7
  • Reply 19 of 39
    GabyGaby Posts: 25member
    gatorguy said:
    noelos said:
    gatorguy said:
    chasm said:
    Would be interesting to know if Koh forced “QUALCOMM” to license those patents on FRAND terms or not.
    What are "FRAND terms"? Serious question to you.


    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=frand+patent+licensing


    Cute, but doesn't answer the question of what the OP means by FRAND terms. I already have a good idea what is allowed and what isn't. Since you chimed in and know how to use a search box do you personally think licensing based on a percentage of end product cost or revenues can meet the criteria for FRAND-compliant? That seems to be a big sticking point for many here. 
    Of course not! With all due respect the answer is in the acronym - fair reasonable and non discriminatory. To charge different prices based on whether or not a product is “premium” is by its very definition discriminatory! If you have a component or patent for sale/licensing, it’s ludicrous to then say yes we will sell it to you but can you tell me the price of your product please so we can decide how much to charge. 
    I mean can you imagine walking into a shop or supermarket  and being confronted by someone requesting your financials and annual salary so they could work out how much to charge you?!  😂
    StrangeDaysSpamSandwich
  • Reply 20 of 39
    thttht Posts: 2,965member
    MplsP said:
    Re: modem speeds, I've read stories here on AI and other places that talk about modem speeds and did tests showing the QC modems were faster and appeared to have better amplifiers to pull in weak signal, but because of the inherent variables in these systems. Ultimately, I think variables in antennas and signal play a bigger roll and overshadow the differences between the modems.
    The average speed of home Internet connections is something like 12 Mbit/s. All the stakeholders (Netflix, Comcast, CDNs, etc) tune for this. These connections often feed multiple devices through a wireless router. In addition to all the vagaries of cellular data performance, data has to come off servers whose data may come off an SSD if you are lucky or a HDD if you are unlucky, the data has to go through who knows what filters, gates and checks all over the world, and then it is broadcasted through a shared cellular tower, and reach a phone through any number of indeterminate obstacles. 

    Apple can lag in implementing future cellular standards for years now. 50 Kbit/s to 500 Kbit/s was huge. It made smartphones possible. 500 Kbit/s to 5 Mbit/s was huge as it made smartphones a mega platform with entire app ecosystems. 5 Mbit/s to 50 Mbit/s made things pleasant to use. Hardly any waiting anymore. 50 Mbit/s to 500 Mbit/s? Not sure what that is buying outside of precious few customers who are moving GB of data from network servers to their phones or by proxy to their computers. 

    Helps Ms the cell towers, and will help customers on those cell towers, but this is a multi year waiting game those cell towers to be upgraded. 
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