Apple is reportedly shifting its focus to developing its own 6G modems, despite facing setbacks in its efforts to create a custom 5G cellular modem. This strategic move positions Apple to define the next generation of mobile connectivity while addressing the challenges encountered in 5G development.
Apple’s 6G vision enables a quantum leap in mobile networking performance and capabilities
As reported by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple’s job postings signal a clear shift in focus towards 6G technology development. The company is actively seeking experts in 6G-related fields, such as Cellular Platform Architect and Modem Systems Software Architect. These specialized roles are tasked with driving the design and modeling of a 6G reference architecture, a foundational step in shaping the next-generation mobile standard.
As a Cellular Platform Architect, you will drive and coordinate the design and modeling of a 6G reference architecture. A suitable set of prototype implementations and reference architecture models needs to be developed that allow the evaluation of technology candidates and use cases. In that role you will plan, drive, and actively participate in those modeling and prototyping activities. You will collaborate cross-functionally with research and development teams in proposing, planning, and implementing simulations and experiments to assess 6G technology candidates!
Apple’s initial venture into custom 5G modems, known as Project Sinope, faced significant challenges, raising concerns about the company’s 5G capabilities. Despite acquiring Intel’s modem business and patents, Apple opted for Qualcomm’s 5G modem in the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro. This experience, along with the complexities of 5G development, has likely fueled Apple’s strategic shift towards 6G. However, there are some concerns. As outlined by Gurman:
Modems are extremely difficult to develop and require testing globally. They’re also utterly essential to operating a phone. If Apple’s modem comes to market and doesn’t work well, it will be the biggest black eye of Tim Cook’s tenure as chief executive officer.
Apple’s acquisition of Intel’s modem business and substantial investment in research and development position the company to actively contribute to the evolution of the 6G standard. By getting involved early in 6G development, Apple aims not only to catch up with the standard but to shape it from its inception. This positioning may grant Apple a stronger negotiating position in future 6G modem manufacturing.
Apple’s multifaceted approach to 6G extends beyond terrestrial boundaries, as indicated by its collaborations with GlobalStar for satellite communication and its efforts to integrate SOS messages sent by iPhones into space. With an eye on future 6G capabilities, including beamforming and MIMO, Apple is positioning itself for a connected future that transcends traditional network boundaries.
The recent announcement by the 3GPP to begin work on the development of 6G specifications further solidifies the industry’s momentum towards the next-generation mobile standard. Apple’s active participation in industry groups like the Next G Alliance aligns with the broader goal of establishing North American leadership in 6G and beyond.