Qualcomm has been the sole supplier of 5G chips to Apple after Intel pulled out, however, the relationship between the companies has been rocky. Apple had bought over Intel’s modem division with the idea that it would eventually drop Qualcomm and switch wholly to in-house modems, much like what it has done with its SoCs. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has recently reported that Apple’s own in-house modem is not coming any time soon and is going to miss its originally planned timeline, which was H2 2023.
The implication is that the tech is not ready. On the other hand, though, FOSS Patents has presented an opposing view. According to FOSS Patents, the issue with Apple’s 5G plans is a legal one and not a technical one.
Apple’s licensing agreement with Qualcomm runs till 2025 and there is also an option to be extended to 2027. The initial plan for Apple was to switch over to in-house modems before that time, but that seems to be unlikely.
There are reportedly two patents that are impending Apple’s progress, but they don’t directly have much to do with 5G. One patent involves allowing the user decline a call with a text message, like “I’m busy”, or “Call me later”, and the other involves the app switching interface.
Reports state that if Apple moves to switch to its in-house 5G modem, Qualcomm is going to sue the company over these two patents. These patents are set to expire in 2029 and 2030, respectively. Apple had attempted to cancel them but that effort was shot down on Monday by the Supreme Court when it decided to not hear Apple’s bid to revive the patent challenge.
Apple was originally hoping that by late 2023, Qualcomm would be reduced to supplying only 20 per cent of the modems the company needs, and not the 100 per cent. But if these reports are anything to go by, this is not going to go as planned and Apple will have to continue to buy the 5G modems from Qualcomm and pay licensing fees.
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