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Apple’s inability to develop 5G smartphone modem is due to two Qualcomm patents, report says

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We recently showed you a tweet from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, known around the world as the most forward-thinking Apple analyst out there. The tweet indicated that Apple’s plan to design its own 5G modem chip for the iPhone, which was, of course, to be built by TSMC, had failed. Apple’s plan to equip 80% of its 2023 handsets with an Apple 5G modem chip (giving Qualcomm a 20% share) had failed.

Apple’s forward progress in developing its own 5G smartphone modem is thwarted by two Qualcomm patents

Qualcomm will now supply Apple with 100% of the 5G modems for the 2023 iPhone 15 line, leaving a bad taste in Apple’s mouth. Remember, Apple paid $1 billion to buy Intel’s smartphone modem company. There was speculation that after Apple reached a settlement with Qualcomm that allowed all legal action between the pair to be withdrawn, Apple would spend a few years using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 5G modem chips in developing the internal component.
Last November the air was full of talk that Apple was set to debut its own 5G modem chip to be built by TSMC using its 4nm process node. The lower the process node number, the greater the number of transistors on the chip, making the chip more powerful and energy efficient. Apple has been trying to reduce its reliance on Qualcomm, and Kuo said Apple will continue to build its own modem chip.
According to 9to5Mac, Apple’s failure to design its own 5G modem chip was not a result of Apple’s inability to develop such a component. Instead, a new report indicates the problem is linked to a few Qualcomm patents that prevent Apple from completing development of its own 5G modem. This may have to do with a Supreme Court ruling announced this week in which the Court said it would not listen to an appeal from the iPhone maker. that wants a few Qualcomm patents canceled.
Florian Mueller, prescribing FossPatents (through patent apple), ties it all together and even goes back to the aforementioned Apple-Qualcomm settlement to explain that Apple considered Qualcomm the only reliable supplier of 5G smartphone modems and thought Intel was on the wrong track. As a result, Apple in desperation agreed to the settlement, knowing it would have to get a continuous supply of 5G modem chips from Qualcomm until it could design its own chips.

A few months before the settlement with Qualcomm was announced, Apple CEO Tim Cook went to CNBC and said, “The problem we have with Qualcomm is they have a no license, no chips policy. This is illegal in our opinion. And second, they have a duty to offer their patent portfolio on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis and they don’t. They charge exorbitant prices.”

Apple will have to circumvent Qualcomm’s current patents

Cook said Apple would fight Qualcomm to the end. But you can almost feel the same despair that Cook felt when it became clear that waving to Qualcomm was his best course of action. And last March, the FTC refused to label Qualcomm’s despised “no license, no chips” policy as anticompetitive.

Some legal experts believe that any future legal action taken by Apple is unlikely to succeed. This puts Apple in a difficult position. It might license the patents, but Qualcomm isn’t known as the Walmart of intellectual property. In fact, as Tim Cook pointed out, it is known for demanding high prices even for standard essential patents (SEP). These are patents issued for patents related to industry standards needed to build a particular product. These patents are believed to be offered at a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) price.

Regardless of a deal with Qualcomm, Apple will no doubt continue to try and build its 5G smartphone modem around Qualcomm’s patents, though the Cupertino crew is apparently stuck until that happens.

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