FastCompany: 1000-plus Apple engineers working on 5G modem chip

“Apple has lost confidence in Intel to deliver the chip, our source says.” — Mark Sullivan


From Sullivan’s “Inside Apple’s shaky plan to deliver a 5G iPhone in 2020” posted Wednesday:

After a gargantuan effort, Intel managed to get its modem chips into some iPhone 7 units, and was the sole modem provider for last year’s iPhone XS, XS Plus, and XR.

The chip giant was to be the sole provider of the 5G modems in the 2020 iPhones, too, but it has been missing deadlines for the development of the chip, the XMM 8160 5G modem, a source with knowledge of the situation says.

In order to deliver big numbers of those modems in time for a September 2020 iPhone launch, Intel needs to deliver sample parts to Apple by early summer of this year, and then deliver a finished modem design in early 2020. Intel said in November that it expected to ship the 8160 5G modem in the second half of 2019. The company, responding to this story, pointed me to that same statement. “As we said in November 2018, Intel plans to support customer device launches in 2020 with its XMM 8160 5G multimode modem,” a company representative said in an email late Wednesday.

But Apple has lost confidence in Intel to deliver the chip, our source says…

Meanwhile Apple appears to be readying itself to design its own modem chips. The company now has a team of between 1000 and 1200 engineers working on the modem chips for future iPhones, our source says. Apple has recruited RF engineers from both Intel and Qualcomm to work in a new development facility in San Diego, our source says, and the development operation has been ramping up quickly. It is possible that future iPhone modem chips could be designed at that facility by Apple employees, and then fabricated by TSMC or Samsung. But that effort is likely about iPhones for 2021 and beyond.

My take: Belt and suspenders.

See also: UBS: Apple’s 5G iPhones may not arrive before 2021, if then

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