Yep, Intel Will be Late to the 5G Party

Posted on February 22, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, iOS, Mobile with 20 Comments

Furthering the perception that it is having trouble competing in this always-connected age, Intel’s 5G technology will be late and won’t appear in smartphones and other mobile devices until 2020.

The news, not unexpected, came during an Intel media event ahead of MWC (formerly Mobile World Congress). According to reports from the event, an Intel representative admitted that the firm does not expect to see consumer “products in the market” based on its 5G chipsets until 2020. That’s at least a year after the rest of the market.

And that’s a problem for Apple, which sourced all of its iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR modems from laggard Intel after it couldn’t secure a deal with rival Qualcomm, with which it is embroiled in several legal battles. Intel’s modems are slower than Qualcomm’s, and when Apple shipped iPhones with both modem types in 2017, it had to slow down the Qualcomm-based iPhones to ensure that all of its customers had similar experiences.

Intel’s latest was expected, however, so Apple has been shopping around for another 5G modem partner lest its 2019 iPhones fall behind the rest of the market. According to reports, it has talked to both MediaTek and Samsung—another firm with which Apple has had numerous legal battles.

Bloomberg previously reported that Apple’s 2019 iPhones would not feature 5G compatibility. Thanks to this embarrassment, Apple has begun an engineering effort to create its own modem chipsets in the future, but this work won’t pay off for years to come. Regardless, it’s understandable why Apple might want to distance itself from Intel.

That said, it’s not all bad news for Intel. The firm did note that Apple’s legal problems with Qualcomm created an opening for Intel, and that it would not impose Qualcomm’s admittedly reasonable licensing costs on its partners.

“Our model relative to[Qualcomm] is just completely different,” Intel CEO Bob Swan said. “Ours is not a licensing-based model. Royalty streams that are charged against the cost of the entire device, that’s a model that as you know has caused quite a bit of friction in the market. Friction for others is an opportunity for us.”

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