Apple announced on Thursday that it has signed an agreement to acquire the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business. The deal is worth $1 billion and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year. Included in the buyout are 2,200 Intel employees joining Apple, patents and other IP, equipment and leases.
Offering improvements in power, size and scalability, Intel’s new 5G-enabled modem supports theoretical peak speeds of up to 6 gigabits per second, or three to six times faster than the latest LTE modems available today.
Tensions between Apple and Qualcomm have been on the rise, which has in part caused Apple to look elsewhere for the iPhone’s upcoming 5G modem. Apple is aiming to include 5G in the iPhone by 2019-2020, which means they are getting close to choosing a manufacturer.
Qualcomm and Apple are currently embroiled in a legal spat involving excessive royalties, casting serious doubt on the possibility of a Qualcomm-made LTE modem in a future iPhone. Today, Qualcomm teased a brand new Snapdragon X20 LTE chip, its second-gen Gigabit LTE modem.
It’s capable of fiber-like LTE Category 18 downloads of up to 1.2 gigabits per second, or one-fifth faster than the previous X16 chip. Upload speeds go up to a theoretical maximum of 150 megabits per second. It’s expected to ship in the first half of 2018.
Only time will tell if Apple plans on dual-sourcing cellular modems from both Qualcomm and Intel, in which case 2018 iPhones could theoretically support faster-than-Gigabit-LTE downlink speeds of up to 150 megabytes per second.