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Huge iPhone 5G News: Apple buys ‘majority’ of Intel modem business

Intel XMM 8160 modem press image
The Intel XMM 8160 5G modem will offer very clear improvements in power, size and scalability in a package that will be smaller than a U.S. penny. It will be released in the second half of 2019, and it will support the new standard for 5G (NR) standalone and (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) modes as well as 4G, 3G and 2G legacy radios in a single chipset. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Apple has purchased the majority of Intel’s modem making business, giving the company a clear path to creating its own 5G modem for future iPhone releases.

The two companies have announced a deal which will see Apple pay the processing giant $1 billion and see more than 2,200 Intel employees jump ship to the Cupertino-based company.

Also part of the deal is intellectual property and equipment from Intel that’ll belong to Apple when the deal closes, which is expected to happen by the end of 2019.

The patents pertain to current and future wireless technology, and will mean Apple will have a combined portfolio of 17,000 wireless technology parents.

Intel will retain access to some modem technology it has created, and will continue to make modems for PCs. The company isn’t getting out of the 5G landscape, but is realigning its efforts to “where it most closely aligns with the needs of our global customer base.”

Related: iPhone 11 (2019)

Intel ceased its efforts to create a 5G smartphone modem earlier this year, right around the time Apple settled its wide-ranging legal dispute with Qualcomm that threatened the latter’s place in the iPhone ecosystem.

At the time it was thought Apple’s settlement had prompted Intel to call it a day, given Apple would now be more likely to opt for Qualcomm chips for the iPhone 5G. However, it now appears Apple and Intel may have had something in the pipeline pertaining to the acquisition announced today.

Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies, said: “Apple is excited to have so many excellent engineers join our growing cellular technologies group, and know they’ll thrive in Apple’s creative and dynamic environment. They, together with our significant acquisition of innovative IP, will help expedite our development on future products and allow Apple to further differentiate moving forward.”

That makes it pretty obvious that Apple is bringing 5G modem creation in-house. Whether the hardware will be ready for the expected launch of the iPhone 5G in 2020 remains to be seen.

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