Apple is expected to deliver the first 5G-enabled iPhone not earleir than 2020, but despite that "delay" compared to rivals, the company could still struggle to get the necessary 5G components for its new devices.
According to Cowen, Apple is “in a difficult position” given its reliance on Intel’s modem products, and it has four options to deal with the situation, “none of which is ideal.”
Intel has said that its 5G modems for smartphones will be reay in 2020.
Apple’s first option, Cowen wrote, is to “launch 18 months after 5G competition with an inferior modem from Intel likely without mmWave capabilities,” referring to the band of spectrum that can be used for 5G’s high-speed wireless communications.
Another option would be to “source a 5G modem from chief competitor Samsung,” Cowen wrote, though it added that would likely come only on “tough commercial terms.” Using a 5G modem from Huawei is “off the table as an option,” Cowen told clients, while “MediaTek’s stack is too far behind in terms of timeline.”
Apple could also use 5G chips from Qualcomm, if the company manage to settle its legal disputes with the chip maker. The two firms have been locked in a multi-year legal battle surrounding patent infringements.
The company’s fourth option would be to purchase Intel’s modem business and develop the necessary components internally. Cowen wrote that this was “a reasonable but expensive long-term solution,” and one that “would be very difficult against a 2H20 timeline.”