Saturday, April 12, 2014

Apple Unlikely To Utilize Custom iPhone Baseband Chip

Baseband Chip
Apple’s in-house Baseband Processor Design & Production

It was revealed to investors from reports received by Appleinsider about the silicon firm Broadcom’s recent struggle in producing an LTE modem of its own against the uphill battle that awaits Apple. Broadcom is one of those companies that Apple had hired away a number of baseband hardware and software engineers recently and Apple all together had assembled around 30 mid and senior level baseband software as well as hardware engineers from the silicon firm together with the current iPhone baseband vendor Qualcomm in the last few years.

Moreover, Apple is also advertising over 50 more additional openings with regards to RF chip design which is still in process, an indication that the build-up is not yet complete. This move would probably fit in with Apple’s recent push to exert more control over the components which powers their most important products. If Apple decides to bring baseband processor design as well as production in-house as it has been indicated, analyst believe that the chips would not be likely to debut in new iPhone models before 2015 which could be the result faced by them due to the notorious difficult nature of their development.

Baseband Processor – Complex Process

The baseband chip is the brain of a handset’s wireless modem working in coordination with a transceiver that controls the receiving and sending of wireless signals via the antenna and the baseband processor enables a device to communicate through cellular networks. Building the baseband components is a complex process which is difficult and since Intel’s introduction of XMM 7160, only Qualcomm’s MDM9615M that is inside Apple’s iPhone and iPad had created a baseband processor which integrated support of 3G, LTE and EDGE networks within a single package.

Apple’s decision and choice of producing its own wireless modems could probably be motivated in part by a desire in improving power efficiency and according to Appleinsider, JP Morgan analyst Rod Hall, who believes that Apple’s current logic board designs uses a baseband chip which is separate from the A-series application processor of the company and that it may be looking out for ways to integrate the two chips into a single package.

Current Vendor – Qualcomm

Apple’s current baseband vendor, Qualcomm had done the same with Snapdragon processors and according to Rod Hall, he believes that the company would be opening a licensing arrangement which would enable Apple to integrate Qualcomm baseband IP on A-series cores wherein with this type of an arrangement it would be beneficial to Qualcomm.

This is due to Apple having accounted for approximately one quarter of Qualcomm’s 2012 revenues and losing business would mean significant financial losses. Inspite of the challenges faced, Hall is of the opinion that Apple does have the ability as well as internal knowledge on how to attract the talents that are necessary for successful developments of its own modem technology, from its successor of the A-series processors. Apple seems to be way ahead of Qualcomm from its desktop class A7 chip which powers the iPhone 5s, iPad Mini and iPad Air along with Retina display.

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