Apple 5G modem talks underway ahead of 2023 production

We’ve known for several years that an in-house Apple 5G modem design has been in the works, to enable the Cupertino company to finally ditch Qualcomm as a supplier. A fresh report today says that Apple is in talks with a potential company to assist with this work.

Apple is expected to switch to its own modem design from 2023, though this probably won’t entirely end the company’s relationship with Qualcomm…


Apple has historically relied on Qualcomm and Samsung modems to provide mobile data functionality, alongside Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

However, the relationship with the US chipmaker soured when the iPhone maker objected to what it referred to as “double-dipping”: Qualcomm charging once for the modem chips, and again for a license fee for the patented technology used in those chips.

A lengthy lawsuit followed, which Apple was eventually forced to settle when potential alternative supplier Intel pulled out of the modem business. Although the Cupertino company was by then already working on its own modem, that work was still years from fruition. It was, however, helped by Apple acquiring Intel’s modem division, giving the company access to both patents and employees.

Apple 5G modem talks

A paywalled Digitimes report says that Apple is in early-stage talks with a chip development company.

ASE Technology, which owns Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) and Siliconware Precision Industries (SPIL), is in preliminary talks with Apple for backend orders associated with the vendor’s first self-designed 5G modem chips set.

As with yesterday’s self-driving car chip report, the work being discussed here is not the production of the final modem chip – which is again set to be made by TSMC. One of the services provided by ASE is low-volume production of chips intended for development and testing work ahead of mass-production next year.

That probably won’t entirely end the company’s relationship with Qualcomm, however. Although Apple now owns Intel 5G patents, it may still be dependent on some Qualcomm patents for its chip design, and would in the case continue to pay license fees. One legal battle between the companies also quietly continues.

Apple has already dropped Samsung in favor of TSMC 5G chips for some iPhone 14 models, but use of its own design will likely follow a year or two later.

Photo: Frederik Lipfert / Unsplash

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Naveen Kumar

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