Broadcom to Supply Apple’s 5G Components in the US
Despite Apple’s internal efforts, the company still needs to rely on third parties for wireless chips.
One of the more noticeable company trends in the hardware space over the past few years has been Apple’s large-scale efforts to decrease its reliance on third-party silicon. However, it seems that, despite the company’s best efforts, they still have found themselves reliant on outside silicon for one field in particular: wireless connectivity.
Yesterday, Apple announced that it has inked a deal with Broadcom to supply Apple’s 5G components in the United States for the coming years. In this piece, we’ll take a look at Apple’s recent shift towards in-house silicon and the details surrounding their new deal with Broadcom.
Apple’s Move to In-house
Apple has always been known for being an innovator in the hardware space, but even then, they’ve historically relied on third-party silicon to power their devices. This changed, however, back in 2020 when Apple cut its ties with Intel.
Looking to decrease its reliance on external silicon and attain greater control over its products, Apple designed its first-ever in-house processor for MacBooks back in 2020. At the time, the release was a big deal as it marked the end of Apple’s reliance on Intel’s processors for their MacBook products. Since then, Apple has gone on the release a slew of other processor offerings, including the M1 Pro, M1 Max, M1 Ultra, and most recently the M2, M2 Pro, and M2 Max.
Apple’s M1 family of processors. Image used courtesy of Apple
Looking outside of processing, Apple has also taken recent steps to eliminate its dependence on third parties in the wireless communications space—specifically Broadcom and Qualcomm. Notably, Apple began its perusal into the wireless world in 2019 when it purchased the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business in the hopes of developing its own in-house wireless solutions.
This push continued further when at the beginning of 2023, reports started to circulate that Apple was working on developing its own Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips with the ultimate intention of dropping its reliance on Broadcom and Skyworks which currently provided these components to the iPhone.
Apple and Broadcom Ink a Deal
However, despite Apple’s efforts and clear intention of creating their own wireless solutions, it seems that they’ve come up empty so far. To validate this, Apple announced this week that they’ve inked a new deal with Broadcom to supply 5G RF components to their products.
Many details are not known about the terms of this deal, but what can be gathered from the company is that the deal is a multi-year contract on the order of billions of dollars. As part of this deal, Broadcom will be supplying Apple with components in the US, amongst which Apple explicitly calls out FBAR (Film Bulk Acoustic Resonator) filters. Notably, the manufacturing of such components will take place in the United States.
Broadcom’s FBAR filters. Image from Broadcom
While more details are not known, the news of this agreement seems to indicate that Apple’s efforts in the wireless space may not be as tenable as they anticipated. With Apple having been investing in the space since 2019, the fact that now, four years later, they just signed a multi-year deal with Broadcom clearly indicates that their efforts won’t come to fruition for at least the duration of the contract.
However, this is not to say that Apple isn’t continuing its plans to develop its own in-house wireless solutions—just that it will take a longer time to reach the market than originally anticipated.
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