Apple’s in-house 5G modem appears to be facing legal challenges


The only 5G chip supplier for Apple since Intel withdrew has been Qualcomm, but the two companies’ relationship has been difficult. Apple bought Intel’s modem division with the intention of dropping Qualcomm and using just in-house modems in the future, similar to what it has done with its SoCs in the past. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently revealed that Apple’s own in-house modem is not arriving any time soon and will miss its initially anticipated schedule of H2 2023.

The inference is that the technology isn’t yet ready for prime time. Then again, FOSS Patents has taken a different tack. When it comes to Apple’s 5G network ambitions, the problem isn’t technical, says FOSS Patents.

Apple’s licensing arrangement with Qualcomm expires at the end of 2025, although there is an option to extend it until the end of 2027. Apple had hoped to transition to in-house modems by that time, but that doesn’t appear realistic at this point.

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Apple’s development is apparently hampered by two patents, neither of which directly relates to 5G. A text message that says “I’m busy” or “Call me later” can be used to decline a call, according to one patent; the app switching interface is covered by the other.

A number of reports claim that Qualcomm would sue Apple over these two patents if the business switched to a 5G modem built in-house. Their respective expiration dates are 2029 and 2030. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled not to hear Apple’s appeal of a dismissal of its lawsuit challenging the validity of the patent at issue.

Apple had originally hoped that by the end of the year 2023, Qualcomm would only be able to supply 20% of the modems that the business requires, rather than the full 100% that it currently requires. However, if these allegations are accurate, it appears as though things are not going to go as planned, and Apple will be required to continue purchasing the 5G modems from Qualcomm and paying license costs.

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