Apple has paused work on the Wi-Fi chip that it has in development, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo tweeted today in a Medium post. This means Broadcom will continue providing Wi-Fi chips for now.
Here are some details from Kuo’s post: Apple’s previous development for Wi-Fi solution was the Wi-Fi-only chip and not the Wi-Fi+Bluetooth combo chip. From a design standpoint, developing a Wi-Fi+Bluetooth combo chip is more challenging than just a Wi-Fi-only chip. Since most of Apple’s products use the combo chip, it would be even more challenging to replace Broadcom’s combo chips with its own if Apple decides to do so.
The slowdown of processor upgrades is unfavorable to the sales of end products (such as A16 and M2 series chips). Therefore, to ensure that the world’s most advanced 3nm processors can enter mass production smoothly in 2023–2025, and the performance upgrade and power consumption improvement can significantly improve vs. predecessors, Apple has devoted most of its IC design resources to the development of processors. Insufficient development resources have delayed the mass production of Apple’s own 5G baseband chip, not to mention the Wi-Fi chip with lower strategic value. In other words, Apple’s own Wi-Fi chip development visibility is even lower than its own 5G baseband chip.
In the next 2–3 years, Wi-Fi chips will usher in critical Wi-Fi 6E/7 upgrades. It’s riskier for Apple to use its own Wi-Fi chips aggressively when the industry standard markedly changes.
Kuo’s report only concerns the custom Wi-Fi chip that Apple was developing to replace Broadcom. The company is apparently still working on its own 5G cellular modem, though that has also been delayed. On Jan. 9 Bloomberg reported that Apple plans to ready its first cellular modem chip by the end of 2024 or 2025.
Apple had been previously expected to replace Qualcomm modems with own this year, but development snags have pushed back the timeline, according to Bloomberg. Apple currently uses Qualcomm modems. However, the tech giant acquired Intel’s smartphone modem business in July 2019 and added 2,200 Intel engineers to its chipset operations globally.