Apple Puts Modem Engineering Unit Into Chip Design Group

Alfred Osborne
February 9, 2019

Apparently Apple has now shifted its modem silo from the supply chain unit to the hardware design one.

Modems are an indispensable part of phones and other mobile devices, connecting them to wireless data networks.

The new report by Reuters says that Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies took over the company's modem design efforts last month.

However, evidence has been mounting that Apple wants to develop cellular modems for the iPhone itself, starting with a December report in The Information on a modem project within Apple. But with Apple now working on its in-house team, we might see Apple's own 5G modem chips in iPhones sooner or later.

However, Apple declined to comment on this. Srouji joined Apple back in 2004 and led development of Apple's first in-house system-on-a-chip, the A4. Apple's timeline for coming out with its own modem chip could put it behind the initial launch of 5G phones, though it's been widely expected that the 2019 iPhones would lack 5G connectivity.

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It's worth pointing out that Taiwan's TCMS, the company Apple uses to manufacture its A Series processors, also makes chips for Qualcomm and Intel.

The Cupertino, California-based company has posted job listings for modem engineers in San Diego, a hub for wireless design talent because of Qualcomm's longtime presence there and a place where Apple has said it plans to build up its workforce.

Linley Gwennap, president of chip industry research firm The Linley Group, said in an interview, 'When you're Apple, everything has to be good. Apple can then bring in many technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Machine Learning into its devices and offer the overall package at a decent price and retake the leadership in the market.

Qualcomm's 5G modem will equip several Android smartphones this year, with rivals Samsung and Huawei manufacturing their own smartphone modems.

Making its own modem chips would likely cost Apple hundreds of millions of dollars or more per year in development costs, analysts said, but could save it money eventually. Qualcomm provides this synergy for phones like the Samsung Galaxy S9, which uses both Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor and Snapdragon LTE modem.

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