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

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
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.

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Top Rated Comments

wanha Avatar
34 months ago

it took apple less time to build intel-beating CPUs than in took to build damn cellular modem. curious as to why,
lol wut?

Apple bought PA Semi in 2009. The Intel beating CPUs came out in 2020. Duration: 11 years.

Apple bought Intel's modem business in 2019. It's only been 2 years...
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LeadingHeat Avatar
34 months ago

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.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jdb8167 Avatar
34 months ago

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?
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cal6n Avatar
34 months ago
Any part of the stack you do not control controls you.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
michalm Avatar
34 months ago

it took apple less time to build intel-beating CPUs than in took to build damn cellular modem. curious as to why,
5G modems are a licensing minefield with Qualcomm punishing everyone for even the smallest misstep. Bear in mind that for the CPUs, Apple partially founded ARM and they are licensed to do whatever they desire.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Abazigal Avatar
34 months ago
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!
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)