Apple works with TSMC on its own 5G modems to complete breakup with Qualcomm

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Apple is reportedly in talks with Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturing giant TSMC to produce its own in-house 5G chips for the next generation of Apple products. According to Nikkei AsiaThe move is primarily aimed at reducing Apple’s dependence on Qualcomm for 5G cellular chips.

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The first generation of Apple’s in-house 5G modems is likely to be based on TSMC’s new 4nm manufacturing process. When developed, the chip will incorporate components designed by Apple for radio frequencies and millimeter-wave. Apple has also started work on a power-management chip designed specifically to work with this modem. However, the mass production of these Apple 5G modems will begin only by 2023.

While Apple has been designing its own systems on chips (SoCs) for more than a decade, the company has generally shied away from making cellular modems. The current crop of iPhones and iPads use 5G-capable modems sourced from Qualcomm – they were supplied as part of a six-year deal the two companies signed in 2019. While Apple’s agreement with Qualcomm won’t end until 2025, Apple has already determined. The groundwork to ensure this will be in-house modem ready over the next few years.

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As part of its long-term plan, Apple will Settled All patent dispute with Qualcomm and signed the above long term deal. Months later, it acquired Intel’s troubled smartphone modem business for $1 billion. The latter gave it access to a veritable goldmine of patents relating to 17,000-odd wireless technology. These patents cover important protocols for cellular standards and modem architecture.

Initial development cost aside, there are many advantages to moving to in-house chips. In addition to giving Apple even more control over hardware integration, this would significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing. While it’s unlikely that Apple will pass these savings on to consumers, tighter hardware integration — in Apple’s case — has generally resulted in massive performance gains. It remains to be seen whether the same will happen with Apple’s in-house modems.

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