Apple's Recent Hires from Broadcom Boost Rumors of In-House Baseband Chip Development

Apple recently hired two high-level baseband hardware engineers who left their longtime positions at Broadcom to join the team at Apple, reports AppleInsider. The discovery of these recent hires follows a report earlier this week that suggests Apple is assembling a team of engineers to develop its own baseband chips for future iPhone models. This baseband hardware controls the radio functions of a device, handling cellular connectivity details such as signal generation, modulation and more.

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The first hire in January 2014 was RF engineer Xiping Wang, who spent over ten years at Broadcom as a Design Engineer and manager of Hardware Development Engineering. Wang was followed by principal engineer and Chip Lead Paul Chang, who joined Apple in February 2014. At Broadcom, Chang was a hardware lead, overseeing the team that developed baseband transceivers for Nokia and Samsung mobile devices.

All together, Apple has assembled at least 30 mid- and senior-level baseband software and hardware engineers from Broadcom and current iPhone baseband vendor Qualcomm over the past three years. Apple is also advertising more than 50 additional openings related to RF chip design, an indication that the build-up is not yet complete.

Apple currently purchases its baseband hardware from Qualcomm, but has recently made acquisitions that would bring more of its chip development in-house. Last year, Apple acquired low-power wireless chip provider Passif Semiconductor and is in talks to acquire Renesas SP Drivers, a division of Renesas Electronics that develops chips for smartphone displays.

These acquisitions are part of a larger move by Apple to control the development and production of its core technologies. This push started with the development of Apple's ARM-based "A" series processor that powers its iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV. The A7 is the most recent processor in the series and is described as providing "desktop class" performance for Apple's mobile devices.

Top Rated Comments

chrmjenkins Avatar
100 months ago
I'm curious to see where this will lead. If Apple does go it alone and make their own RF chips, there's a possibility that they might slip back into proprietary (and eventually incompatible) technologies, as they did in the '90s. I don't understand what Apple could bring to the table compared to what Broadcom and Qualcomm are already doing. And I don't see how Apple could do it more cost-effectively. There must be something else they're after that Broadcom and Qualcomm don't or won't offer.

How can they slip into proprietary technologies when they are required to interface with the same networks and operate on the same standards as everyone else?
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chrmjenkins Avatar
100 months ago
I hope they get the work done in time for the iPhone 6, hoping for better cellular data battery life.

If they're just now hiring, we won't see it for a while. There was a long lead time from the PA Semi acquisition for it to bear fruit.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kiantech Avatar
100 months ago
This will probably hurt jailbreakers as most of the hacks leverage baseband vulnerabilities.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mdridwan47 Avatar
100 months ago
Can't apple make the WiFi iPad to include GPS ? :mad:
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
everything-i Avatar
100 months ago
I'm curious to see where this will lead. If Apple does go it alone and make their own RF chips, there's a possibility that they might slip back into proprietary (and eventually incompatible) technologies, as they did in the '90s. I don't understand what Apple could bring to the table compared to what Broadcom and Qualcomm are already doing. And I don't see how Apple could do it more cost-effectively. There must be something else they're after that Broadcom and Qualcomm don't or won't offer.
Going proprietary is unlikely to happen as the network technologies they have to work with are fixed. There is a lot of interesting work going on in the RF field and Apple could come up with something very interesting. After all they already wrong footed the industry with their 64bit A7 so they could conceivably have plans to go in new directions with baseband tech too.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Millah Avatar
100 months ago
I'm curious to see where this will lead. If Apple does go it alone and make their own RF chips, there's a possibility that they might slip back into proprietary (and eventually incompatible) technologies, as they did in the '90s. I don't understand what Apple could bring to the table compared to what Broadcom and Qualcomm are already doing. And I don't see how Apple could do it more cost-effectively. There must be something else they're after that Broadcom and Qualcomm don't or won't offer.

Yes, because Apple deciding to build their own baseband chips MUST mean they're going to also build an entirely proprietary cellular networking technology and build an entirely new network.....

They're just building baseband chips, that will likely operate on the currently existing standards (LTE, HSPA, etc). I don't think we need to worry about that.

This can only result in good things, so long as they actually create something better and more efficient than the rest. And I doubt they would do this unless they were convinced they could. Energy efficiency seems to be one of those top level priorities with Apples hardware teams at the moment. Better solution than just shoving a larger battery inside the phone.

----------

Apple also has a lackluster track record at creating standards. Firewire saw good adoption, but Facetime as a standard fell on its face.

WebKit and OpenCL would disagree with you ;)
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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