Intel 5G modem

What you need to know

  • Apple bought Intel's 5G modem business earlier this year.
  • It intends to use its own 5G modems in iPhones.
  • That is planned to happen by 2022.

Apple bought Intel's ailing 5G modem business earlier this year, signalling its intention to cut out Qualcomm and produce its own chips. Now Fast Company reports that iPhones could have Apple 5G modems inside by 2022.

Apple skipped 5G this year but is said to have plans to add the feature to the 2020 iPhones. Those 5G modems will come from Qualcomm after the two companies ended their lawsuit shennanigans recently. But that will only be a short term thing, with Apple set to leverage its newly bought modem team.

Apple is known as a company which likes to have control of everything. Every last detail. And being able to design its own 5G modems is part of that, despite Qualcomm's prowess in that department. With that in mind the company has set the 2022 iPhone as its modem target target.

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But designing modems isn't an easy thing to do and Fast Company's source is dubious as to whether 2022 is viable.

It won't be easy. In fact, bringing a new modem to the finish line in two years is really pushing it, my source said. After all the design work is done, and the fabrication of the chips themselves is underway, an arduous testing and certification process still awaits.

Apple will have to put the modem through network optimization testing to make sure it plays nice with the carriers' wireless networks. The modem must be tested to ensure compliance with global standards, and undergo another battery of tests to satisfy FCC requirements.

Apple has never produced a modem of its own before, so some of the people involved with the initiative may not fully understand how long it takes, said my source, who believes 2023 may be a more realistic completion date.

Part of the plan after picking up Intel's modem business is to move the communication chip onto the main "system on a chip" (SoC) to save power and space inside the device. However, given the tight time constraints it's likely that the first 5G modems to appear in iPhones will be standalone chips, rather than integrated into the SoC used at the time.

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