Why did Intel kill off their modem program?

“There is no way to sugar coat Intel’s modem story, it has been a flaming disaster from the start,” Charlie Demerjian writes for SemiAccurate. “Intel bought no less than four complete cellular modem units or hired their teams, Infineon, Via Telecom, and Motorola are the big additions in their quest to make things work. One after another pieces were added to plug the holes in the dam but there was no chance of it succeeding. From the beginning it was obvious to any onlooker that the Intel cellular modem program was untenable.”

“There were other train wrecks along the way but the core problem was simple, Intel promised OEMs and device makers a certain set of specs for their upcoming products. The device makers took this on faith and built products based on that promise,” Demerjian writes. “Intel failed to deliver on time or on spec, usually both, and the device ended up being out of place or out of price in the market. None of them were successful.”

“This sad state of affairs is the key to the knifing of Intel’s modem program, the company quite literally never delivered a modem that worked right. The most glaring example of this was the iPhone 7 which had both Intel and Qualcomm variants. On paper it was a 1Gb LTE device but Apple only delivered a 600Mbps iPhone,” Demerjian writes. “That same 600Mbps Qualcomm modem in the iPhone ran at 1Gbps in Android devices. The Intel modem ran at 600Mbps max and there were no other customers to make a comparison to. Apple crippled their Qualcomm parts to match the delivered Intel specs.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Oh, yeah, we’d almost forgotten (blacked out) the case of Apple crippling iPhone’s Qualcomm modems to make them as slow as Intel’s. How does that delight the customer, exactly? There’s another one for Tim Cook’s Apple’s greatest hits.

So, Apple has chosen to benefit themselves (getting multiple modem suppliers to drive down cost, even if one is markedly inferior) at the expense of their iPhone customers who, if they all had superior Qualcomm modems inside their iPhones, would be getting nearly twice the Mbps than they are now.

In a nutshell: Apple has chosen to maximize their potential profits over delighting their customers, making the following statements sound like utter bullshit:

• “We’re very simple people at Apple. We focus on making the world’s best products and enriching people’s lives.” — Tim Cook

• “I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that — it is in our DNA. We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do”. — Tim Cook

In this case, Tim, we’re certainly not delighted and Apple employees should not be incredibly proud. — MacDailyNews, December 5, 2016

Here’s what likely happened between Apple, Qualcomm and Intel – April 17, 2019
Intel axes 5G modem plans after Apple and Qualcomm settle – April 17, 2019
After settlement with Apple, Qualcomm still faces other potential legal fallout – April 16, 2019
Qualcomm and Apple settle, agree to drop all litigation – April 16, 2019
Some of Apple’s iPhone 8 and 8 Plus phones have much better LTE chips than the others – September 29, 2017
Analyst: Apple’s going to dump Intel modems if they keep lagging Qualcomm – December 5, 2016
Yes, Apple is throttling download speeds for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus Verizon and Sprint versions – November 19, 2016
Apple’s modem choices may leave Verizon iPhone users feeling throttled – November 18, 2016
Tests show iPhone 7 Plus models with Qualcomm modem perform significantly better than those with Intel modem – October 20, 2016


  1. Why did Intel or IBM not want to make smaller faster CPU’s? Intel doesn’t think mobile at any level is worth it. And in ten years they will history like IBM.

        1. Intel is on it’s way to being IBM, did you look at IBM latest earnings report? more decline. Intel and IBM are in the long slow decline to nothing…..

    1. This is because Intel is addicted to high margin parts like the high end CPUs. The SoCs like ARM is a low margin high volume part. I am surprised that Intel went into the modem business. You can’t charge a lot for the modems and requires lots of manufacturing resources, not to mention having to work around Qualcomm’s patents. Stupid move.

      1. And yet MDN continues to give Apple the benefit of the doubt regarding more recent appearances of misleading / deceiving their customers & investors.

  2. I wonder if there’s any way to tie this to the Canon Lake debacle? Why yes! There is! Intel sucks at mobile. 🙂

    Which, incidentally, sucks for Intel because the market at large is skewing mobile. And, they’re going to be left behind if they can’t come up with a viable solution.

  3. Interesting that all these Tim Cook haters and name callers don’t call out Intel CEO’s past & present with ugly nicknames, how about Samsung, no one makes phobic nicknames there. Perhaps there is a deeper reason.

  4. The settlement shocked me. I blame my shock to MDN’s optimism for Apple’s side.
    I read two of Demerjian’s articles on the debacle; Both were depressing. He said that Apple allegedly shared Q’s IPs with Intel who even bought a handful of modem technologies and the latter still produced inferior 4G modems. And its 5G is a phantom so Apple was not only in a potential legal jeopardy but also in the end remained beholden to Q as much it seems as it’s beholden to Samsung.

    But what about FRAND? Apple gave up on asserting its legal right to it? That’s not clear.

      1. They are smaller, and are only faster per watt. Desktop doesn’t care about watts, so unless they are going to stuff 64 of them in a box, not interested.

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