Apple starts development of in-house cellular modem

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2020
Apple is forging ahead with plans to develop and build its own cellular modems for use in iPhone, iPad and other devices, a move designed to decrease reliance on supply partners like Qualcomm.

iPhone 12


SVP of hardware and technologies Johny Srouji informed employees of the development in a town hall meeting on Thursday, reports Bloomberg.

"This year, we kicked off the development of our first internal cellular modem which will enable another key strategic transition," Srouji said, according to the publication. "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."

The news comes after years of speculation and rumors regarding an in-house designed Apple modem.

Currently, Apple relies on Qualcomm for its modem needs, including all 5G components found in iPhone 12. The tech giant used Intel baseband hardware from 2016 through 2018, but the chipmaker was reportedly unable to deliver working 5G technology in time for a 2020 release.

Rumors of the Apple's interest in modem technology date back to 2014, but more recent reports suggest Apple solidified plans for its modem team as it battled Qualcomm in court. Apple sued the company in 2017 over patent licensing fees, an action that sparked a worldwide legal scrum that was settled in April. Reading the writing on the wall, Intel ceased development of its 5G modem tech and ultimately sold the corresponding patent portfolio to Apple for $1 billion.

Beyond intellectual property, Apple over the past few has acquired engineering talent from Qualcomm and other major industry players.

It is unclear when Apple intends to integrate its own modem in a shipping product, though terms of the Qualcomm settlement include a six-year supply licensing agreement that took effect on April 1, 2019. Prior reports claimed the first Apple modem would debut in 2022.

In addition to a modem, Srouji on Thursday said Apple is working on a "family" of Mac chips. A report earlier this week claims Apple is expectedly planning to build a series of advanced desktop chips to complement the M1, including a 32-core variant that might debut in a redesigned Mac Pro in 2022.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 55
    Srouji Is a complete Legend.


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 55
    Obvious. They had been moving in this direction for a decade now.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 55
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,110member
    This comes to no surprise.  I'm sure Qualcomm is readying its army of lawyers ready to accuse Apple of stealing its IP.

    XedanantksundaramBeatsronnwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 55
    thttht Posts: 5,550member
    Feels like they should have started 4 years ago, but good to hear they are committed. They could have switched Macs to Apple Silicon in 2018. And their own cellular modems could have been started in 2016 or 2017. They basically wasted billions and 4 years to groom Intel to be a secondary or primary modem provider, but Intel has poorly performed in virtually everything they have touched the past 3 to 4 years.
    lkrupppatchythepiraten2itivguywatto_cobrallama
  • Reply 5 of 55
    sflocal said:
    This comes to no surprise.  I'm sure Qualcomm is readying its army of lawyers ready to accuse Apple of stealing its IP.

    You're right, it is no surprise.  This has been years in the making.  It's seriously doubtful Qualcomm would do as you're suggesting.  It literally makes no sense.  Considering all the agreements both companies entered into to end litigation, it's a safe bet, Apple's aspirations are no surprise to Qualcomm.  It's even more likely that both companies have entered into licensing agreements to avoid future issues.  The length of time Apple has committed to using Qualcomm's tech is also an indicator that both companies are fully aware of what the near future brings.

    muthuk_vanalingamRayz2016tmaypatchythepirate
  • Reply 6 of 55
    tht said:
    Feels like they should have started 4 years ago, but good to hear they are committed. They could have switched Macs to Apple Silicon in 2018. And their own cellular modems could have been started in 2016 or 2017. They basically wasted billions and 4 years to groom Intel to be a secondary or primary modem provider, but Intel has poorly performed in virtually everything they have touched the past 3 to 4 years.

    Lol, right. I mean really they should have started 8 years ago so they could switch Macs to Apple silicon in 2014. And their own cellular modems could have been started in 2012 or 2013. Making a technological roadmap after the fact is a breeze. I wonder if there are any paying jobs in that field. 
    mac_dogmelgrossBeatsseanjmike1lkruppFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 55
    I still waiting for an always connected laptop.  So, it’s another 2 years away... that’s unfortunate.
    lkruppwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 55
    thttht Posts: 5,550member
    drdavid said:
    tht said:
    Feels like they should have started 4 years ago, but good to hear they are committed. They could have switched Macs to Apple Silicon in 2018. And their own cellular modems could have been started in 2016 or 2017. They basically wasted billions and 4 years to groom Intel to be a secondary or primary modem provider, but Intel has poorly performed in virtually everything they have touched the past 3 to 4 years.
    Lol, right. I mean really they should have started 8 years ago so they could switch Macs to Apple silicon in 2014. And their own cellular modems could have been started in 2012 or 2013. Making a technological roadmap after the fact is a breeze. I wonder if there are any paying jobs in that field. 
    2018 is when TSMC caught up to Intel in fab. That would have been the perfect time to make the switch as Apple could have rode a six year tick tock cycle of TSMC going from 10nm, 7nm, 5nm. And if they are on cadence with 3nm, 8 years. It would have been relentless march. Before that, Intel had the best fabs, and the best decision was to stay with Intel. 
    Rayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 55
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,585member
    tht said:
    Feels like they should have started 4 years ago, but good to hear they are committed. They could have switched Macs to Apple Silicon in 2018. And their own cellular modems could have been started in 2016 or 2017. They basically wasted billions and 4 years to groom Intel to be a secondary or primary modem provider, but Intel has poorly performed in virtually everything they have touched the past 3 to 4 years.
    I don’t think it’s that simple. Apple knew that Intel was starting years behind in R&D and patents. I think that Intel did a pretty good job considering that starting position. In fact, if 5G had come in one year later, it’s possible that Intel would have made Apple’s 5G modem.

    it’s only because Qualcomm now seems to have been forced to license its essential patents as FRAND, as they should have been made to do years before, that Apple can even do this.
    edited December 2020 anantksundaramGeorgeBMactmaydrdavidpatchythepirateronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 55
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,585member

    tht said:
    drdavid said:
    tht said:
    Feels like they should have started 4 years ago, but good to hear they are committed. They could have switched Macs to Apple Silicon in 2018. And their own cellular modems could have been started in 2016 or 2017. They basically wasted billions and 4 years to groom Intel to be a secondary or primary modem provider, but Intel has poorly performed in virtually everything they have touched the past 3 to 4 years.
    Lol, right. I mean really they should have started 8 years ago so they could switch Macs to Apple silicon in 2014. And their own cellular modems could have been started in 2012 or 2013. Making a technological roadmap after the fact is a breeze. I wonder if there are any paying jobs in that field. 
    2018 is when TSMC caught up to Intel in fab. That would have been the perfect time to make the switch as Apple could have rode a six year tick tock cycle of TSMC going from 10nm, 7nm, 5nm. And if they are on cadence with 3nm, 8 years. It would have been relentless march. Before that, Intel had the best fabs, and the best decision was to stay with Intel. 
    Apple’s chips weren’t ready in 2018. You think you know more about it than Apple? And the question about fabs isn’t so direct either. TSMC, Samsung and others have been using very relaxed, as they call it, manufacturing rules for this. Intel’s problem wasn’t so much that their fans were behind, as it was that they refused to do the same, struggling with something others gave up on. I’m not saying that Intel was doing the right thing.

    But a couple of years ago Intel made a proposal that instead of using process node, which these others aren’t totally honest about, they should use transistor density. That’s a much more useful way of measurement, as it actually accounts for all the manufacturing points. But the others said no. Why, because it takes the marketing advantage of using smaller numbers, which they can do, and using bigger numbers instead, which they can’t.

    ‘’admittedly, Intel has screwed itself because of their stubbornness. But it’s not really so much a matter of technical superiority, as it was then trying to make 10nm transistors in a 10nm space, which was something the others had given up on before.
    WriterDudeAZmuthuk_vanalingamdrdavidronnFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 55
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,966member
    melgross said:
    tht said:
    Feels like they should have started 4 years ago, but good to hear they are committed. They could have switched Macs to Apple Silicon in 2018. And their own cellular modems could have been started in 2016 or 2017. They basically wasted billions and 4 years to groom Intel to be a secondary or primary modem provider, but Intel has poorly performed in virtually everything they have touched the past 3 to 4 years.
    I don’t think it’s that simple. Apple knew that Intel was starting years behind in R&D and patents. I think that Intel did a pretty good job considering that starting position. In fact, if 5G had come in one year later, it’s possible that Intel would have made Apple’s 5G modem.

    it’s only because Qualcomm now seems to have been forced to license its essential patents as FRAND, as they should have been made to do years before, that Apple can even do this.
    I was assuming Apple had already started, but what you say makes sense - QC has such an war chest of patents that development wasn't really feasible until the FRAND issues were resolved.

    edit - I know it’s a few years off but having their own modem will also enable integration of the modem in their A series mobile device processors, saving power and space. 
    edited December 2020 patchythepiratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 55
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    I was hoping to see the first Apple Silicon Macs to have Apple modems. but these things take time.

    But iKnockoff morons tell me Apple products take months to develop so it’s strange it’s taking this long to develop a chip!!!
    /s
    patchythepiratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 55
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    sflocal said:
    This comes to no surprise.  I'm sure Qualcomm is readying its army of lawyers ready to accuse Apple of stealing its IP.


    They’ll just say “anti-competitive” if it’s still in fashion by then. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 55
    Waiting for 2nd Gen Apple Silicon Macbook Air with 5G...
    edited December 2020 lkruppdrdavidwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 55
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    bala1234 said:
    Waiting for 2nd Gen Apple Silicon Macbook Air with 5G...
    And when arrives, you’ll post again, saying that you’re waiting for the 3rd Gen ASi MacBook Air with 6G …
    mike1lkrupptmaywilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 55
    Rayz2016 said:
    bala1234 said:
    Waiting for 2nd Gen Apple Silicon Macbook Air with 5G...
    And when arrives, you’ll post again, saying that you’re waiting for the 3rd Gen ASi MacBook Air with 6G …

    May be not for 6G. But, I was never going to invest in the first gen even if I am extremely tempted.  But if there is a Macbook Air with 5G it would be an extremely attractive package...
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 55
    bala1234 said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    bala1234 said:
    Waiting for 2nd Gen Apple Silicon Macbook Air with 5G...
    And when arrives, you’ll post again, saying that you’re waiting for the 3rd Gen ASi MacBook Air with 6G …

    May be not for 6G. But, I was never going to invest in the first gen even if I am extremely tempted.  But if there is a Macbook Air with 5G it would be an extremely attractive package...
    Nah just wait until Apple glasses ship with 7G. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 55
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,902member
    Better late than never.

    It was a very necessary move, seeing as networking on a cellular level is becoming ever more important as more (and more varied) devices become available.

    The current situation will go down as a huge misstep in strategic planning. Personally, I'm convinced the QC deal was something they had to do just to stay viable in the 5G cellular space in the short ter. It meant not only ceasing legal hostilities with QC but falling behind competitors and now needing a new 'homegrown' solution which will take a lot of time to get up and running. All that on top of having to kiss the toad (QC).

    Plus, getting the necessary expertise may prove difficult but they are going to have to hire most of that in. They been hiring talent (mainly from QC) for a couple of years now. 

    Then their patent portfolio, while bigger than early last year due to the intel deal, is still not very big. 

    But, just like everyone else, you have to start somewhere and they have started. That's important. 


    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 19 of 55
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    What we don't know is what is going on behind the scenes between Apple and Qualcomm.

    It sounds strange that Apple would have swallowed their pride and kissed and made up with Qualcomm so they could use Qualcomm modems for only a single year.
    So, that leaves two possibilities:
    1)   The Apple-Qualcomm reunion didn't work and Apple is going its own way on their own as quickly as possible -- like next September
    2)   This is, as has always been thought, a long term project much like Apple Silicon replacing the Intel CPU's.

    The iPhone 12 reportedly does not have the latest and greatest of Qualcomm modems -- that may have influenced this and its timing.   That is:  Did Qualcomm stick it to Apple and pawn off an inferior modem on them?
  • Reply 20 of 55
    It is amazing to see so many people bash Qualcomm for not agreeing to Apple's demands, even though doing so would have cost Qualcomm billions of dollars.

    1. Apple and Qualcomm had an existing legal agreement in place that Apple entered into on their own volition that Apple broke.
    2. Qualcomm has 100% valid patents in this area and are a practicing entity.
    3. Qualcomm's billing philosophy for Apple was consistent with their billing philosophy for everybody else.

    Apple just up and said "we are going to stop paying for you what we agreed to pay you because":

    1. We are Apple making patent and contract law only binding on everyone else. Everyone else heeding contracts with us and respecting our IP is mandatory. For us it is voluntary.
    2. Qualcomm's patents while valid - are only valuable because they are in iPhones in the first place. So Qualcomm should really be paying us!
    3. Because we are Apple, we should be able to dictate our own billing philosophy based on our needs. If Qualcomm's many other customers who buy far more components and operate on much lower margins all do what Apple did - break valid contracts in the middle of them and demand new terms that are as self serving as possible - costing Qualcomm 1/3 of its revenue, that is Qualcomm's problem!

    Total garbage. The reality: Apple had no problem paying the previously agreed to rate when they were still experiencing massive yearly sales increases. But after "peak iPhone" and "peak iPad" passed, Apple decided that they were going to maintain a similar amount of profit by squeezing suppliers. While that works with smaller suppliers, it isn't going to work with big suppliers with the resources to fight - and win - multiyear lawsuits filed in multiple countries. (For example, Apple didn't even contest the penalty they had to pay Samsung for not buying as many OLED screens as they committed to.) Unlike Apple's (mostly) tilting at windmills against Samsung over an issue that they had already decisively lost in Apple vs Microsoft 20 years prior, Qualcomm filed lawsuits against Apple in every regulatory and legal market in the world and was going to win in nearly all of them. Those courts and agencies were on the verge of awarding Qualcomm:

    1. previously owed licensing fees
    2. punitive damages
    3. bans on sale on Apple devices until they addressed 1. - 3. (The things that Apple tried to win against Samsung, but only got a few hundred million - the equivalent of maybe $5 for every device that Samsung sold - over trade dress.)

    Granted while all bodies were not going to do 3. they were all going to do 1. and 2. Apple had no choice but to "settle" - meaning give Qualcomm everything they were owed and sign a long term exclusive deal with them which was much better than before - because Qualcomm's patents are obvious and airtight plus Qualcomm's tech is the best in the industry and no else else can compete. Intel wasn't the only one competing with Qualcomm making LTE and 5G radios. Samsung and MediaTek make them too. There is actually a Wintel 5G laptop that has a MediaTek 5G radio installed near the speaker. 

    While Qualcomm made a ton of money off Apple, being a mobile chip supplier is only a small part of their business, and discrete 5G radios only a small part of their mobile component business. Going forward their focus is going to be competing with Intel, AMD and Nvidia on edge computing devices. Apple cut them a check to sever their business relationship. As part of the deal, Qualcomm is going to actually help Apple design a 5G radio that is comparable in quality with theirs. (Apple isn't exactly screaming this from the rooftops but it is true.) After this agreement is over, Qualcomm will be thrilled at not having to do business with Apple anymore. You make so much money off Apple that you can't turn them down - your shareholders would freak out - but dealing with Apple's gamesmanship is so frustrating that you wonder whether it is worth the money you are making in the first place, especially if you are already a massive company who doesn't need it. 
    muthuk_vanalingamFileMakerFellermike54
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