Intel has announced it will exit the 5G smartphone modem business and will shift its focus on 5G network infrastructure instead.
The decision is a major reversal, as during much of 2018 Intel promoted its 5G modem business and even accelerated delivery of its first products, saying it would ship sample 5G modem chips to customers in 2019 but that those devices were not expected to appear in mobile phones until 2020.
So what's changed? Apple and Qualcomm, that's what. Overnight the two companies settled a dispute that threatened to see Apple left without a 5G modem-maker. Settling with Qualcomm meant Apple can get hits hands on 5G silicon before Intel gets to market.
Intel hasn't left the 5G market completely, saying it will “complete an assessment of the opportunities” for 4G and 5G modems in PCs, IoT devices and other data-centric devices. And the company will continue manufacturing its existing 4G smartphone modem product line.
“We are very excited about the opportunity in 5G and the ‘cloudification’ of the network, but in the smartphone modem business it has become apparent that there is no clear path to profitability and positive returns,” Intel chief executive Bob Swan said.
“5G continues to be a strategic priority across Intel, and our team has developed a valuable portfolio of wireless products and intellectual property.”
“We are assessing our options to realise the value we have created, including the opportunities in a wide variety of data-centric platforms and devices in a 5G world.”
Intel said it will provide additional details in its upcoming 2019 first-quarter earnings release and conference call on 25 April.