[News] Apple’s 5G Chip Dreams Crushed, TSMC Wins Big

2023-09-12 Semiconductors editor

According to the news from ChinaTimes, Qualcomm announced on the 11th that it has reached a three-year agreement with Apple to supply 5G communication chips for Apple’s smartphones from 2024 to 2026. This also implies that Apple’s efforts to develop its own 5G modem chips may fall through, and the contract manufacturer TSMC stands to benefit the most.

Qualcomm did not disclose the value of this deal but mentioned that the terms of the agreement are similar to previous ones. Previous supply agreements have been highly profitable for Qualcomm but costly for Apple. According to UBS estimates from last month, Qualcomm’s sales of modem chips to Apple in the previous fiscal year amounted to $7.26 billion, accounting for approximately 16% of the company’s revenue.

This also highlights that Apple’s progress in developing modem chips may not be as expected, leading to a delay in their use in their flagship smartphones. Currently, Apple’s iPhones use 5G modem chips from Qualcomm.

Only a few companies worldwide have the capability to produce communication chips, including Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung. In 2019, Apple acquired Intel’s smartphone modem business for $1 billion, along with 2,200 employees and a series of patents. Intel faced difficulties in developing 5G modem chips, resulting in annual losses of around $1 billion.

The market expects Apple to gradually reduce its reliance on third-party chip suppliers. Qualcomm originally estimated that by 2023, their 5G chips would make up only 20% of iPhones. However, Qualcomm’s CFO stated in November of the previous year that “most” of Apple’s phones in 2023 would contain their chips.