Future iPhone models could go whole-hog with Intel's 5G modem, rather than splitting orders between Intel for GSM models (AT&T and T-Mobile) and Qualcomm's for CDMA phones (Sprint and Verizon). as is present the case. Citing an unnamed source, Fast Company says Apple's iPhone engineers have been working with Intel's team on hardware that uses the next generation wireless broadband technology.
Likewise, Apple's communication with Qualcomm, the top supplier of modem chipsets, has been comparatively limited. That likely has to do with the ongoing legal battle between the two companies that started when Apple cooperated with an FTC investigation into Qualcomm's business practices. Things quickly took a turn for the ugly, with Apple accusing Qualcomm of extortion and withholding $1 billion in owed back payments.
Qualcomm responded by alleging patent infringement on Apple's part, and it asked a court to have iPhone production halted in China, along with a sales ban. More recently, Qualcomm piled on another allegation, claiming that Apple shared confidential chip information with Intel, including source code.
"As the direct and proximate result of Apple's conduct, Qualcomm has suffered significant damages in an amount to be proven at trial," stated the company in the filing.
Qualcomm's 5G modem chips actually offer more specialized features than Intel's, such as Uplink Carrier Aggregation. However, the aforementioned source says many of those features will not be adopted by carriers, and that Apple feels Intel's 5G chips pass muster for use in future iPhone handsets.
This would be a big win for Intel, and validation to the R&D that went into developing its XMM 8000 series, which is Intel's first family of 5G new radio (5G NR) multi-mode commercial modems, along with its latest LTE modem, the XMM 7660.
"Intel is committed to delivering leading 5G multi-mode modem technology and making sure the transition to 5G is smooth," said Dr. Cormac Conroy, Intel corporate vice president and general manager of the Communication and Devices Group. "Our investments in a full portfolio of modem technologies and products are critical to achieving the vision of seamless 5G connectivity."
It's not clear which future iPhone modem will adopt Intel's 5G modems in both GSM and CDMA versions. Apple plans its iPhone roadmap well in advance, so it could be a generation or two.