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Apple will debut its rumored custom-designed 5G modem in 2023's iPhone models and the component will not be integrated into the device's A-series chip, DigiTimes reports.

Apple-5G-Modem-Feature-16x9.jpg

In paywalled report published earlier today, sources speaking to DigiTimes said that 2022 will be the last year when Qualcomm supplies all of the modems in iPhone models. Thereafter, iPhones are expected to begin featuring 5G baseband modem chips designed by Apple itself.

The 5G modem that Apple has developed for its 2023 iPhone models is said to be separate from its A-series chip, tentatively called the "A17." This stands in contrast to the initial Android devices that are looking to feature custom modems, which reportedly intend to integrate both the cellular processor (CP) and application processor (AP) directly into the device's System on Chip (SoC).

TSMC, the Taiwanese company that currently supplies all of Apple's custom silicon SoCs, is believed to be preparing to supply Apple with its custom-designed 5G baseband modem.

At its investor day earlier this week, Qualcomm said that it expects to supply just 20 percent of Apple's modem chips in 2023, suggesting that Apple will self-supply up to 80 percent of the 5G modem chips required for iPhones starting in 2023.

It is not unreasonable to speculate that the remaining 20 percent supplied by Qualcomm will be in older or entry-level devices in the 2023 iPhone lineup. On the other hand, the remaining 20 percent could also include devices made for regions where Apple's 5G modem is not supported.

Apple is believed to have kickstarted the work on its own in-house modem chips, with the aim of moving away from Qualcomm, by acquiring Intel's modem chip business in 2019.

The report lines up with previous rumors that said that Apple's modem chip will be ready to launch in 2023.

Article Link: Apple-Designed 5G Modem to Be Separate From A-Series Chip, Again Rumored to Debut in 2023 iPhones
 

ph001bi

macrumors 6502a
May 26, 2015
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DigiTimes, really? At least their "fingers in the air" statement sort of makes sense, the first generation won't be integrated in the SOC because Apple has already planned m2 launching in 2022 and m3 CPUs launching in 2023, but the second generation modems will integrate into m4 around 2024. That's how CPU design works and how far ahead they plan.
 

LeadingHeat

macrumors 6502a
Oct 3, 2015
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DigiTimes, really? At least their "fingers in the air" statement sort of makes sense, the first generation won't be integrated in the SOC because Apple has already planned m2 launching in 2022 and m3 CPUs launching in 2023, but the second generation modems will integrate into m4 around 2024. That's how CPU design works and how far ahead they plan.
Unless they’re also planning to include it in their MacBook lineup… then it would make sense to keep it separate so it’s easily addable to different systems and chips.
 

Abazigal

Contributor
Jul 18, 2011
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it took apple less time to build intel-beating CPUs than in took to build damn cellular modem. curious as to why,

The challenge is likely working around Qualcomm patents.

I find this move timely. On one hand, it should improve Apple’s margins significantly by either reducing the IP fees Apple pays out (down from $90 to $20), though I would impressed if Apple is able to circumvent the fees to Qualcomm altogether.

The second is that the less Qualcomm earns from Apple, the less money it has for R&D, and the slower it will be able to innovate relative to Apple. Which again is typically how most downward spirals begin.

The prospects of an Apple-owned satellite beaming data to Apple-designed modems is also a very appealing one.

Bring it on, Apple!
 

HiVolt

macrumors 65816
Sep 29, 2008
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Unless they’re also planning to include it in their MacBook lineup… then it would make sense to keep it separate so it’s easily addable to different systems and chips.
Yeah I wouldn't count on it, there's never been an Apple laptop with cellular connectivity.

It's something I can't wrap my head around. They are ignoring a whole segment of industry that issue laptops to field techs & other personnel that need secure access back to the office, with everything preconfigured.
 
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iamgalt

macrumors 6502
Jul 25, 2012
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I'm sure Qualcomm's lawyers are ready at the helm to file suite against Apple as soon as the chip is released for patent infringement, and a slew of other items. Get ready for even more news about lawsuits against Apple.
 

Ceed

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The new, unified, controlled, robotic, borg-like Apple world, where everything is One. Everything in your home is Apple. Everything on your body is Apple. Everything in your mind is Apple. You will be assimilated.
 

ddtmm

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Jul 12, 2010
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I would expect there will be both approaches. Some built into the SoC and some stand-alone. Where it makes sense to integrate, that’s what will happen and in other cases, not. This is pretty common in electronic design.
 
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jdb8167

macrumors 68040
Nov 17, 2008
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it took apple less time to build intel-beating CPUs than in took to build damn cellular modem. curious as to why,
Because 5G cellular modems are very hard to get right. They are incredibly complex and have a lot of analog components. Apple has been building their own SoCs since 2012 and they weren't comfortable to replace notebook CPUs until 2020. They can't do the same gradual learning process with the 5G modem. It has to work the first time with all the features meeting international specifications. Can you imagine the disaster if Apple's 5G modem doesn't work well on Apple's flagship iPhones?
 

jdb8167

macrumors 68040
Nov 17, 2008
3,965
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The challenge is likely working around Qualcomm patents.

I find this move timely. On one hand, it should improve Apple’s margins significantly by either reducing the IP fees Apple pays out (down from $90 to $20), though I would impressed if Apple is able to circumvent the fees to Qualcomm altogether.

The second is that the less Qualcomm earns from Apple, the less money it has for R&D, and the slower it will be able to innovate relative to Apple. Which again is typically how most downward spirals begin.

The prospects of an Apple-owned satellite beaming data to Apple-designed modems is also a very appealing one.

Bring it on, Apple!
I'm fairly sure Apple's agreement with Qualcomm included licensing of the FRAND LTE and 5G patents. Apple would be nuts to agree to stop the lawsuit with Qualcomm knowing that they are developing their own modem chips without it. It's not like it is a secret that Apple bought out Intel's 5G business.
 

Shirasaki

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May 16, 2015
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Another question would be: which country will have this Apple modem built-in? Will Apple still purchase modem from Qualcomm because certain countries don’t like Apple having their own in-house modem?
 

elvisimprsntr

macrumors 6502a
Jul 17, 2013
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Unless they’re also planning to include it in their MacBook lineup… then it would make sense to keep it separate so it’s easily addable to different systems and chips.
Also likely to mitigate risk in the event Apple modems are not on time or up to par. They could simply drop in a QCOM modem and delay their launch until ready.
 
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Kazgarth

macrumors regular
Oct 18, 2020
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Another question would be: which country will have this Apple modem built-in? Will Apple still purchase modem from Qualcomm because certain countries don’t like Apple having their own in-house modem?
Never was the case when they used their own Apple/Intel modem in all phones till iPhone 11.
 

Abazigal

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Jul 18, 2011
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I'm fairly sure Apple's agreement with Qualcomm included licensing of the FRAND LTE and 5G patents. Apple would be nuts to agree to stop the lawsuit with Qualcomm knowing that they are developing their own modem chips without it. It's not like it is a secret that Apple bought out Intel's 5G business.

IIRC, the agreement was for 6 years (until 2025), with the option to extend for 2 more years. It’s possible that Apple thought they simply needed more time, and are actually coming out ahead of schedule.

I agree that Apple is likely still continuing to pay licensing fees to Qiualcomm, but even this would represent a significant loss of business for Qualcomm (since Apple is known to pay more for each cellular modem relative to other phone manufacturers). I don’t know if Apple will ever be able to work around those patents, or maybe even delegitimize the existing framework found with standards-essential patents.

Still a significant development for Apple either way, I feel.
 
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