Apple to Take on Qualcomm, Intel With Custom Cellular Modem, Job Listings Suggest

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Apple to Take on Qualcomm, Intel With Custom Cellular Modem, Job Listings Suggest

Apple is apparently set to establish a team for its custom cellular modem in Santa Clara and San Diego

Highlights
  • A job listing has been posted by Apple to kick off the new development
  • The new modem could take three years to reach an iPhone model
  • Apple is also looking for RF design engineers in San Diego

Amid the ongoing tussle with Qualcomm, Apple has now reportedly started building its in-house cellular modem. The new custom cellular modem, which is speculated to take as long as three years to reach iPhone models, is likely being developed by a team of Apple engineers. A job listing has emerged to hint at the new development. Specifically, the Cupertino giant is looking for resources in Santa Clara and San Diego. This seems interesting as while the former is the hometown of Intel, the latter is where Qualcomm has its headquarters.

Apple is actively working on a custom cellular modem, reports The Information, citing people familiar with the development. The company in a job listing posted recently mentioned that it is looking for a cellular modem systems architect to work in its San Diego office. "In this role, you will be a key member of the wireless architecture team working on modem systems architecture aspects for the L1/physical layer," reads the description of the job listing.

A job post is also currently live for a cellular modem system architect in Santa Clara. Further, there are various other openings at Apple that are for RF design engineers located in San Diego.

The Information reports that Apple is aiming to build its custom cellular modem specifically for future iPhone models. However, it is believed that the development would take not just some months but as many as three years to bring the modem operational in an iPhone. The Tim Cook-led army could, in the meantime, continue to outsource the technology from Intel.

The move to start building a custom cellular modem over picking an existing solution from a chip maker like Intel will help Apple improve the experience and customise the performance as per its hardware. Also, the development of the custom modem could make it easier for the company to integrate cellular connectivity in future devices - beyond iPhones, such as new MacBook lineup or a new range of iPad Pro models, or even some new Apple Watch versions.

This won't be the first time when Apple will bring its native resources to build a silicon. The company is already successfully designing its own custom Apple A-series chips that are powering the entire iPhone portfolio. It is also rumoured to bring a custom chip for its Mac machines as early as 2020.

Importantly, the development of a custom cellular modem emerges amid the fight between Apple and Qualcomm. The iPhone maker was largely relied on the San Diego-headquartered company for offering cellular connectivity on its mobile devices initially. However, in the past several months, Apple and Qualcomm punching each other.

Qualcomm earlier this year confirmed that the 2018 iPhone models would not include its cellular modem. Also, most recently, the company that is popular for its Snapdragon X-series of cellular modems managed to ban certain Apple iPhone models in China over a patent infringement case. Apple Stores in the country are so far continued with business as usual, though.

Unlike Qualcomm, Apple is nowadays seeing Intel as the modem provider for its near-future iPhone models. A 5G iPhone with an Intel modem is already expected in 2020.

Having said that, it is apparently not the quality that is restricting Apple to have a long-term relationship with Intel. Qualcomm, citing SpeedTest data provided by Ookla, recently reported that Android smartphones featuring the Snapdragon 845 SoC delivered 40 percent faster download speeds and 20 percent faster upload speeds over devices using Intel's XMM 7480 modems, including the 2017 iPhone family.

Apple is yet to reveal any formal details around its custom cellular modem. Nevertheless, considering the patent disputes with Qualcomm and the reported quality issues with Intel chips, the company is expected to speed up the process and bring new iPhone models with its own modem in the coming years.

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