Apple Hired Lead Intel Engineer for 5G Modem Development Before It Inked a Deal With Qualcomm
A number of key events unfolded in recent weeks, starting with Apple’s and Qualcomm’s decision to end their longstanding legal battle, followed by Intel’s announcement to exit the 5G smartphone business. It made no sense for Intel to stay in the game after losing its most important client to a company that made more superior chips in a given category, and now it has emerged that Apple might have something to do with the chipmaker’s decision. Even before Apple managed to ink a deal with Qualcomm, the iPhone maker poached a lead Intel engineer to help give it an edge in the 5G modem development race.
Apple Is Apparently on a Poaching Spree to Make Its Own 5G Modem, Even Though Experts Believe It Will Take Several Years for the Project to Complete
Intel’s key expertise is making computer processors and it’s no secret that the company was struggling with 5G modems. To make matters worse, Apple poached Intel’s phone modem lead Umashankar Thyagarajan back in February and since he was reportedly playing a key role in the development of the XMM 8160, Intel’s first 5G chip, his departure came as a death knell. The engineer was also at the forefront of the development of the modems running inside the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.
While Thyagarajan’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t reveal much about his current role at Apple, it’s almost a given that he is working on 5G modems. It is a well-known fact by now that Apple is trying to make its own cellular chipset to reduce its reliance on third-party vendors and Thyagarajan’s hiring further corroborates the reports that claim that the Cupertino giant is ramping up its in-house modem development efforts. In fact, the company is believed to have moved to San Diego to lure some of Qualcomm’s staff as well.
A previous report detailed that Apple wanted to acquire Intel’s smartphone modem business. Apparently, Intel is intent on getting rid of its modem chip business, and if the Cupertino giant doesn’t show interest, the business might go to some other acquirer. Right now, it is possible that the cellular chip business is dead weight for Intel and it is continuously losing its value, so the sooner Intel manages to sell it, the better.
While Apple might have impressive ambitions to roll out a 5G modem, industry experts believe it will take several years before a proper in-house 5G solution is running in future iPhones due to the complexities that are involved in making this silicon. Apple also reportedly has plans to bring 5G connectivity to the iPad Pro in 2021, but these slates will most likely be running Qualcomm 5G modems too.
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