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Apple approached Samsung and MediaTek to supply 5G modems for 2019 iPhones

By Cookie Monster - on 13 Jan 2019, 12:12am

Apple approached Samsung and MediaTek to supply 5G modems for 2019 iPhones

During a testimony trial between Qualcomm and the U.S Federal Trade Commission on Friday, Apple's supply chain executive Tony Blevins shared that the company held talks with MediaTek and Samsung to supply 5G modem chips for the iPhone. 

Blevins testifed that Apple has always wanted to have multiple suppliers for the modem chips, but it signed an agreement with Qualcomm to exclusively supply the modem chips in exchange for deep rebates on patent license costs. This caused Apple to end work with Intel to supply modem chips for the iPad Mini 2 as it did not want to lose the rebates by using Intel's chips. 

When cost negotiations with Qualcomm did not go as well as it had expected, Apple decided to start "Project Antique" to find a second modem supplier. Apple also begun using Intel's modems in some of the iPhones from 2016 to 2017, and its lawsuit against Qualcomm over unfair royalty fees changed the relationship "in a very profound and negative manner". 

“The entire concept of Project Antique was to find a second supplier. No offense to (Intel) but we don’t want to be single supplier with them. We wanted both Qualcomm and (Intel) in the mix,” Blevins said. 

While Blevins did not reveal whether Apple had decided on a 5G modem supplier or whether it would release a 5G iPhone this year, he said talking with Samsung is "not an ideal environment" for Apple as both companies compete fiercely in the smartphone market. 

Blevins' testimony confirms earlier rumors of Apple talking with MediaTek for 5G modems. The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2017 that Apple was planning to drop Qualcomm chips from the iPhone and the iPad, and that a potential supplier could be MediaTek. DigiTimes followed up with a similar report by claiming that MediaTek is in a good position to secure modem chip orders from Apple. In July 2018, DigiTimes reported again that Apple was considering MediaTek's modems for future iPhones. 

It remains to be seen whether Apple will roll out a 5G iPhone this year. Fast Company reported two months ago that Apple's first 5G iPhone will only arrive in 2020. Bloomberg also reported that Apple is likely to wait as long as a year after the initial deployment of 5G networks before releasing a 5G iPhone. 

Source: Reuters

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