12 April 2019
With the long dispute going on between Apple and Qualcomm, it was speculated that the Cupertino-based company would turn to Intel only for its 5G smartphone. But to our surprise, Intel has left the 5G smartphone market now and the decision comes hours after the settlement of Apple and Qualcomm over a patent dispute.
Intel said in a statement,
The company will continue to meet current customer commitments for its existing 4G smartphone modem product line but does not expect to launch 5G modem products in the smartphone space, including those originally planned for launches in 2020.
The company has said it will provide additional details about its plans in its earnings report on April 25. Intel also announces that it will continue to "complete an assessment of the opportunities for 4G and 5G modems in PCs, internet of things devices and other data-centric devices."
Intel CEO Bob Swan said,
We are very excited about the opportunity in 5G and the ‘cloudification’ of the network, but in the smartphone modem business it has become apparent that there is no clear path to profitability and positive returns.
While announcing the XMM 8160 5G modem back in November 2018, Intel forecasted that devices utilizing this new modem will arrive in 2020. But it turned out during the MWC 2019 event that the modem was under development. Intel put forward the progress report of this modem, stating that it’s developing its own radio front end module in collaboration with Skyworks so as to support sub-6Ghz 5G networks. Intel even said that the platform including RF front end will be available in Q4 2019 and broad availability is targeted for H1 2020. This directly indicated that Apple would also release its 5G products only in 2020 or maybe after it.
The company had also found troubles with its first 5G modem XMM 8060 last year and it was later dropped in favor of its now-canceled sequel. Intel reportedly faced power efficiency and cooling challenges with its first and second 5G modems. Earlier this month, Intel rebuffed a report that stated the company is facing new problems in its new 5G modem development program. But the delay in 5G modem supply would have delayed the launch of an iPhone with 5G support to 2021 and Apple may have plans to launch a device in the coming year only.
But this all has nothing to conclude now as Intel is exiting the 5G smartphone modem business. The news comes after the settlement of Apple and Qualcomm over a patent dispute. And now since Apple has dropped all the litigations, it’s all set to make use of Qualcomm chips once again and we probably see an iPhone 5G model this year which would compete against the Galaxy S10 5G.
Intel’s exit from the 5G smartphone modem business clearly leaves four contenders in this competition – Qualcomm, of course, Huawei, MediaTek, and Samsung.