According to a report by The Information, Apple may not have a homegrown 5G modem ready for its iPhones for about six years. The company, which is expected to lag Android device makers when it comes to integrating superfast 5G connectivity into phones, has been designing more of the components inside its devices to reduce its reliance on suppliers.
That includes the key modems that connect iPhones to mobile networks. The company has been hiring engineers for the project in an effort to build 5G chips, one of the most expensive and complicated parts of a smartphone.
Citing an anonymous source, The Information said that “in interviews with prospective hires for the team, Apple has told engineers that they expect to have their own modem ready by 2025.”
After years of work on 5G networks, hyped as the life-changing foundation for augmented reality, telemedicine and other tech trends, the superfast wireless technology is finally going live around the globe. Carriers are turning on their networks, and virtually every major Android handset maker has touted plans to launch a 5G device this year. Apple hasn’t.
5G or not 5G
Apple had stopped working with the leading 5G modem provider, Qualcomm, because of a dispute over Qualcomm’s licensing fees. The iPhone giant’s sole partner for 5G modems, Intel, struggled to build working chips, and Intel ultimately exited the 5G phone modem business after Apple and Qualcomm settled their litigation and struck a multiyear 5G chip deal in April.
The supply agreement will allow Apple to release a 5G iPhone — but not before 2020.
At the time Intel announced plans to bail on 5G, CEO Bob Swan confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that his company’s decision to exit the 5G phone modem business was due to Apple and Qualcomm.
“In light of the announcement of Apple and Qualcomm, we assessed the prospects for us to make money while delivering this technology for smartphones and concluded at the time that we just didn’t see a path,” Swan told the Journal.
Some publications have also pointed to rumors that Apple is looking to buy Intel’s 5G phone modem business, but other reports have said the two companies couldn’t reach a deal.
Apple and Intel didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
CNET’s Shara Tibken contributed to this report.
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