Apple Poached Intel’s 5G Mobile Technology Lead Weeks Before Resolving Conflict with Qualcomm

Apple and Qualcomm making peace with each other might not have been the sole reason responsible for Intel bowing out of 5G mobile modem business.

According to a new scoop from The Telegraph, Apple had poached Intel’s 5G lead, Umashankar Thyagarajan, in February of this year, just a few weeks before making peace with Qualcomm.

Apart from leading Intel’s 5G modem efforts, Thyagarajan had also played a key role in developing previous Intel modem. He had been working at Intel for seven years and was serving as Senior Director of 5G project engineering since the last three-and-a-half years.

“Mr. Thyagarajan’s departure is understood to have been a setback to Intel’s efforts, forcing the company to reshuffle the 5G project,” reads the report. “Shortly afterward, Intel said it would not be able to release a 5G smartphone chip until 2020, more than a year after Qualcomm.”

“According to an email sent to Intel staff, written by executives Messay Amerga and Abhay Joshi, Mr. Thyagarajan had ‘played a key role’ in the Intel chip that featured in last year’s iPhones and he had been the project engineer on developing its 5G chip, known as XMM 8160,” the report continues.

This kind of “poaching” is, of course, not new in this industry, but it does shed some light on Apple’s long-term plans. The iPhone maker turned to Intel in worry that Qualcomm would use its monopoly of 5G modems to dictate negotiating terms. Now, however, Apple has other plans.

It’s also no secret that the company wants to make its own 5G modem, just as it makes its own A processors. This would reduce its reliance on outside suppliers, like Qualcomm, and take matters into its own hands. While neither Apple nor Intel have commented on what Thyagarajan will doing at Apple, it’s pretty much expected that it will at least be towards 5G support in future iPhones.

After Apple and Qualcomm announced their settlement, Intel almost immediately bowed out of the mobile 5G modem business, and Thyagarajan’s departure might have been one of the reasons why the company left the business so quickly.

Intel is reportedly looking to get rid of its mobile chips business and even though the division is said to be bleeding red ink to the tune of $1 billion USD a year, there is interest in the unit. Samsung, Broadcom, and ON Semiconductor are some of the names said to be interested in the business, which could fetch a few billion dollars.

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