Apple’s Likely to Gobble up Intel’s 5G Business to Boost Future iPhones

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Intel has entered into exclusive talks with a single buyer just a couple of weeks after putting a portfolio of 8,500 wireless technology patents on the market.

The Santa Clara-based chipmaker first put that patent portfolio up for auction in late June. But now, Intel has taken the entire portfolio off the market to give a single interested buyer exclusive access to look over the patents before finalizing a deal, patent news site IAM reported.

That period of exclusivity is currently precluding “further engagement with other bidders,” though Intel notes that the auction could be re-opened if the deal isn’t inked.

Is the Buyer Apple?

Intel gave no indication of who the potential buyer may be. But IAM speculates that it could be Apple due to the Cupertino tech giant’s interest in Intel’s modem business.

In fact, IAM goes so far as to say that “the iPhone giant must be seen as among the most likely bidders.”

The publication cites a number of reasons, including Apple’s long relationship with Intel and the fact that the company certainly has the cash to buy up Intel’s portfolio without any problems.

We previously reported that Apple may be mulling over gobbling up Intel’s 5G modem business. Given the circumstances, it looks like the interested exclusive bidder could be Apple.

What’s in the Portfolio?

Intel’s auction is reportedly divided into two separate portfolios. There’s a cellular technology portfolio and a connected device portfolio.

The cellular portfolio includes roughly 6,000 patents related to 3G, 4G and even 5G cellular standards. It also includes roughly 1,700 patent assets on wireless implementation technologies — essentially, patents surrounding how to deploy cellular standards.

There’s also around 500 patent assets in the second portfolio. These patents are ones with “broad applicability” across the semiconductor and electronics industries, IAM reported back in June.

Apple’s 5G Modems

We first heard about Apple’s alleged in-house modem development near the end of 2018. Since then, there have been a steady stream of reports corroborating the fact that Apple is making its own cellular silicon.

Buying up Intel’s wireless patent portfolios could give Apple an advantage in its own modem development. It may not speed up the chipmaking process by any large degree, but it certainly couldn’t hurt to incorporate Intel’s already established chipmaking expertise.

To be clear, Apple’s first 5G modem is still likely a few years off — modem development is complicated and most experts think it could take years for Apple to get a handle on it. In the meantime, the iPhone maker is likely to debut a handset equipped with a Qualcomm 5G modem.

A first-party modem could allow for a number of consumer benefits, including better integration with Apple hardware and software; improved speed and reliability; and a lower overall cost for 5G technology.

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