DigiTimes: Apple to Launch MacBooks with Cellular 5G Connectivity in Second Half of 2020

Apple is working on a range of MacBooks with 5G cellular connectivity for launch as early as next year, claims a new report today by DigiTimes.


According to the hit-and-miss Taiwanese publication, Lenovo, HP, and Dell will kick off the 5G laptop market later this year, and Apple is set to follow with its own high-speed cellular notebook in the second half of 2020.
The world's top-3 notebook vendors Lenovo, HP and Dell are set to introduce their first 5G models in the second half of 2019, and Apple is also expected to roll out its 5G MacBook series in the second half of 2020, according to industry sources.
The English version of the DigiTimes story is currently paywalled, so the following details are based on a machine-translation of the same report on DigiTimes Taiwan.

DigiTimes' notebook supply chain connections claim that Apple has finalized its integrated 5G MacBook design and though it did so later than other vendors, its 5G transceiver offers higher efficiency and superior high-speed transmission rates than rival designs.

According to DigiTimes' sources, Apple is achieving better 5G performance in its notebook designs through the use of a ceramic antenna board, which costs six times that of a regular metal antenna board but offers twice the transmission and reception efficiency.

Another reason a 5G-enabled MacBook is expected to be high is reportedly down to the case: A metal chassis shields the 5G signal, meaning the notebook would require 13 to 15 antennas, where a 5G smartphone typically uses 11.

This is the first time we've heard anything about Apple planning to launch a MacBook with 5G, and DigiTimes has a mixed track record in relation to reporting on Apple's future plans, so it's best to treat its rumors with some skepticism until the info is corroborated by additional sources.

That said, Apple has explored the possibility of developing MacBooks with cellular connectivity in the past. Indeed, the company reportedly considered launching a MacBook Air with 3G connectivity, but former CEO Steve Jobs said in 2008 that Apple decided against it, since it would take up too much room in the case and would lock customers to a specific carrier. Plus owners who wanted to could always use a USB modem and choose their own carrier.

Apple patent describing MacBook with integrated LTE

Despite retreating from the idea, Apple received approval for two patents in 2016 that would enable it to add LTE connectivity to its MacBooks. Both describe the use of an installed "cavity" antenna that runs parallel with the notebook's hinge which could be used for long-range communications such as cellular telephone bands. The patents also describe other uses including near-field communications (NFC), light-based wireless connectivity, satellite navigation, and more.

While it appears that Apple and Qualcomm's multi-year licensing and chipset supply agreement will result in Qualcomm supplying modems for the first 5G-enabled iPhones, expected to launch in 2020, multiple reports have indicated that Apple is on the path to developing its own cellular modems.

Indeed, Apple recently announced that it plans to acquire the majority of Intel's smartphone modem business, subject to regulatory approvals. The acquisition will certainly benefit Apple's cellular technologies team, but whether it will factor in on any plans for a series of 5G MacBooks remains to be seen.


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Kuo: All Three iPhones Coming in 2020 Will Support 5G

The three iPhones expected to launch in 2020 will feature support for 5G, according to a new note to investors shared today by Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and obtained by MacRumors.

Kuo originally said that two of the three new iPhones coming in 2020 will support 5G, but now believes that Apple will offer 5G in all models to better compete with lower-cost Android smartphones that will support 5G. Kuo also says that following Apple's acquisition of Intel's smartphone modem chip business, Apple has more resources for developing the 5G iPhone.

We now believe that all three new 2H20 iPhone models will support 5G for the following reasons. (1) Apple has more resource for developing the 5G iPhone after the acquisition of Intel baseband business. (2) We expect that the prices of 5G Android smartphones will decline to $249-349 USD in 2H20. We believe that 5G Android smartphones, which will be sold at $249-349 USD, will only support Sub-6GHz. But the key is that consumers will think that 5G is the necessary function in 2H20. Therefore, iPhone models which will be sold at higher prices have to support 5G for winning more subsidies from mobile operators and consumers' purchase intention. (3) Boosting 5G developments could benefit Apple's AR ecosystem.
Kuo says that he expects all three new iPhone models coming in 2020 to support both mmWave and Sub-6GHz spectrum to meet the requirements of the American market, but it is not clear if Apple will launch a 5G iPhone that only supports Sub-6GHz, which would allow for a lower price. He says Apple may not have enough development resources for such a project.
Apple may have the intention to launch the 5G iPhone, which only supports Sub-6GHz, to gain market share by lowering the cost/price for markets which only support Sub-6GHz (e.g., Chinese market). However, 5G iPhone, which only supports Sub-6GHz and the version which supports mmWave & Sub-6GHz are regarded as different projects even though they share the same form factor design.
For those unfamiliar with 5G networks, there are actually two different kinds of 5G. mmWave technology is the super fast 5G that's most often talked about, but not all 5G networks are going to use mmWave technology in all areas because it's best suited to denser urban areas.

In rural and suburban areas, 5G technology will be on mid-bands and low-bands, called sub-6GHz 5G. It's still faster than 4G, but not as fast as mmWave. When 5G finishes rolling out, there will be some areas with mmWave technology where data transfer speeds will be lightning quick, coupled with other more expansive areas that are closer to 4G LTE speeds.

Over time, low-band and mid-band 5G speeds should also get much quicker, but at launch, won't be as fast as mmWave, which is most often in the spotlight.

Apple is planning to use modem chips from Qualcomm in its 2020 5G iPhone lineup, despite its recent acquisition of Intel's smartphone modem chip business. Apple is working on its own modem chips, but that technology isn't going to be ready until 2021.

Along with 5G technology, the 2020 iPhones could be available in new sizes. In a previous note, Kuo said that Apple is going to release 5.4 and 6.7-inch high-end iPhones with OLED displays along with a 6.1-inch model with an OLED display. More information on what to expect in the 2020 iPhones can be found in the dedicated what's next section of our 2019 iPhone roundup.

Related Roundup: 2019 iPhones

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Apple Reportedly Wants to Have a Custom 5G Modem Ready for Use in Some Products by 2021

Apple yesterday announced that it has agreed to acquire the majority of Intel's smartphone modem business. The $1 billion transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019, subject to regulatory approvals.


Understandably, the acquisition may enable Apple to accelerate development of its own 5G modem, with Reuters citing a source who claims the iPhone maker wants to have an in-house chip ready for use in some of its products by 2021, compared to previously reported timeframes of between 2022 and 2025.


Apple's transition to custom 5G modems will likely happen in phases, starting with lower-end and older models of devices, according to the report. Apple has a multiyear chipset supply agreement with Qualcomm, and a six-year patent license agreement, so it certainly does not have to rush the process.

The report does not explicitly mention the iPhone, so the first product with an Apple-designed modem could very well end up being an iPad. In any case, the transition away from Qualcomm will likely take years, as its modems lead the industry in performance and worldwide compatibility.

In the interim, Intel is expected to supply LTE modems for 2019 iPhones, with Apple returning to Qualcomm for the first 5G-enabled iPhones in 2020.

Tags: Qualcomm, 5G

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Intel Reportedly in Exclusive Talks With Unnamed Buyer Over 8,500 Wireless Patents

Just weeks after Intel reportedly put around 8,500 wireless patents up for auction, the chipmaker has now taken the portfolio off the market and entered into a period of exclusivity with an unnamed buyer for a substantial portion of the assets up for sale, according to IAM.

Intel 5G Modem
While the hopeful buyer has not been disclosed, the report speculates it could be Apple:
Intel gave no indication of who the interested bidder might be; whether, for example, it is an operating company acting on its own, a consortium or an investor play. However, given the reports of Apple's interest in the chipmaker's overall smartphone modem business, the iPhone giant must be seen as among the most likely bidders.
Intel is reportedly aiming to sell off 8,500 assets from its patent portfolio, including 6,000 patents related to 3G, 4G, and 5G cellular standards and an additional 1,700 patents on wireless implementation technologies.

The portfolio would obviously be tremendously valuable to Apple as rumors suggest the iPhone maker is developing its own cellular modems that could be ready by 2022 or 2023, according to reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple is also widely expected to release its first 5G-enabled iPhone next year.

In April, Intel announced that it is exiting the 5G smartphone business, not long after Apple and Qualcomm reached a settlement and a multi-year supply agreement that will see Qualcomm providing 5G modems for future iPhones.

Apple is reportedly interested in purchasing parts of Intel's smartphone modem business following its exit, possibly including its German division. Together with the 8,500 patents, this would give Apple a significant amount of 5G-related intellectual property to advance its wireless technologies.

Tags: Intel, 5G

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Apple in Talks to Purchase Intel’s German Modem Unit

Apple is in talks to buy Intel's German modem unit, which could help the Apple develop its own modem chips more quickly, reports The Information.

Intel is considering selling its modem business in pieces, and this is not the first time we've heard word that Apple's interested in a purchase. Back in April, The Wall Street Journal said that Apple had held discussions with Intel about acquiring parts of the Intel modem chip business, and apparently, those talks are ongoing.

Intel 5G Modem
Any deal between Apple and Intel would likely include Intel patents and products, said one person briefed on the discussions. Such an arrangement would resemble the deal Apple reached with Dialog Semiconductor, a U.K.-based company that designs chips that handle power management chores in devices. Last year, Apple and Dialog struck a $600 million deal that brought 300 Dialog employees to Apple, along with some patents.
The two companies have been in discussions since last year, but The Information warns that the talks could still fall through without a deal.

The Information estimates that a deal for Intel's German modem business could bring "hundreds" of modem engineers to Apple. Intel's chip production facilities are headquartered in Germany after a 2011 purchase of chip maker Infineon.

Intel announced in April that it was exiting the 5G smartphone modem business, sharing the news just hours after Apple and Qualcomm announced a resolution to their ongoing legal battle and established a new supply deal.

Apple had been planning to use Intel's 5G chips for its 2020 iPhones, but rumors indicated Intel wasn't able to meet design deadlines, causing the relationship between the two companies to sour. Apple is now planning to use Qualcomm's 5G modem chips in its 2020 5G iPhones, and is also working on its own modem chip development for later devices.

In the future, Apple is aiming to reduce its dependence on suppliers like Qualcomm by creating its own modem chips, but the company still has a few years to go before the technology is ready. According to The Information, Apple has been telling new modem chip hires in San Diego that it doesn't expect to release devices with its own modem chips until 2025.


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Sprint Launches Mobile 5G Network in Four U.S. Cities

Sprint today announced the initial launch of its mobile 5G network, bringing 5G connectivity to Sprint customers in areas of Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Kansas City.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Sprint expects to expand 5G availability to areas of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington D.C.

At the foundation of Sprint 5G is Massive MIMO, a breakthrough technology that dramatically improves network capacity. Sprint is using 64T64R (64 transmitters 64 receivers) 5G Massive MIMO radios from Ericsson in Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Kansas City. These radios support split-mode, enabling Sprint to simultaneously deliver LTE Advanced and 5G NR service. Sprint's 5G Massive MIMO radios run on its 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum, and they are deployed on Sprint's existing 4G cell sites, providing a nearly identical footprint for both 2.5 GHz LTE and 5G NR coverage.
Early 5G networks are limited in scope and are available in small areas in the above listed cities, with residents of those areas able to check out the Sprint press release for specific data on where 5G will be available.

The type of 5G network that Sprint is rolling out uses millimeter wave spectrum, which offers blazing fast data transfer speeds but is sensitive to interference and limited in range, making it best suited to use in urban areas because it can't cover wide swathes of land.

In rural and suburban areas, U.S. carriers, including Sprint, will roll out 5G networks on mid-bands and low-bands, aka sub-6GHz 5G. T-Mobile, the company Sprint is hoping to merge with, is focusing heavily on this more widespread connectivity.

Non mmWave 5G technology won't be as fast as the speeds possible with mmWave, but it will bring improvements over current 4G LTE networks. Sprint says its mmWave 5G technology is 10 times faster than LTE.

Sprint is, in the future, aiming to expand its 5G network through its merger with T-Mobile, though there are concerns that it won't be approved. A recent report suggests the United States Justice Department wants to require T-Mobile and Sprint to "lay the groundwork" for a new wireless carrier (to create a fourth competitor) as a condition for the government allowing the merger to proceed.

Connecting to a 5G network requires a smartphone that supports 5G, and there are few on the market at the current time. Options include the LG ThinQ 5G and the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

There are no iPhones that are able to connect to 5G networks at the current time, and Apple is not expected to release a 5G device until 2020. Rumors suggest 2020 iPhones will feature 5G chips from Qualcomm, following the resolution of the legal woes between Qualcomm and Apple along with Intel's decision to drop out of the 5G chip market.


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Vodafone to Switch on UK’s First 5G Network on July 3, 2019

Vodafone on Tuesday said it will switch on its 5G network in the United Kingdom on July 3, 2019, making it the first carrier to announce a firm date for the launch of the next-generation cellular technology in the country.

Seven cities will get 5G coverage at launch, including Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London. The rollout will extend by the end of the year to Birkenhead, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Newbury, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Warrington and Wolverhampton.


In a press release on its site, Vodafone said it will price 5G the same as 4G for both consumers and business customers, while a choice of 5G smartphones will be available to buy online or in Vodafone stores over the summer. They will include the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G, the Samsung S10 5G and Huawei Mate 20 X (5G), and the Huawei Mate X (5G).

The company will also offer a 5G router for use in the home and office to give customers without a fixed line connection high-speed broadband access. Vodafone said it will also offer 5G roaming in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain over the summer.
Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery said: "We started our 5G journey more than three years ago. We led the way in setting 5G standards to ensure phones and networks work well together. We upgraded our masts to be able to take 5G without disruption. And we were the first UK company to test 5G over our all-fibre core fixed and mobile network.

"This is important. It means we can today announce the largest launch of 5G in the UK and be the first to announce 5G roaming. It means that UK businesses can lead the world in adopting 5G to boost productivity and attract investment. It means consumers can get the fastest mobile speeds ever, and it means that our public sector will be able to adopt new services to improve healthcare, social services and housing."
Multiple rumors dating back months have suggested Apple is going to launch a 5G iPhone in 2020, which means the 2019 iPhones will continue to use 4G.

There were questions about whether Apple would be able to acquire 5G chips for its 2020 devices following its dispute with Qualcomm, however that litigation has been cleared up, making a 5G iPhone in 2020 a real prospect.

Apple won't be prepared to launch 5G iPhones in 2019 and can't afford to wait until 2021, with competitors already launching 5G smartphones, therefore 2020 is almost certainly the year 5G will come to iPhone.


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AT&T CEO Believe 5G Phone Plans Could Be Tiered and Priced on Data Speed

The next couple of years will see the rollout of 5G cellular phone networks from companies like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, and it sounds like 5G smartphone plans might not be priced in the same way as current 4G LTE plans.

During today's AT&T earnings call, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said (via The Verge) that he believes the pricing for 5G connectivity could resemble home broadband pricing with different prices for different speed tiers rather than one set price for the fastest connectivity available.

"I will be very surprised if, as we move into wireless, the pricing regime in wireless doesn't look something like the pricing regime you see in fixed line. If you can offer a gig speed, there are some customers that are willing to pay a premium for 500 meg to a gig speed, and so forth. So I expect that to be the case. We're two to three years away from seeing that play out."
5G networks are still in the early days, so how pricing will ultimately work out remains to be seen. It's also not clear how variable pricing for tiered speeds would work given the fact that 5G connections speeds are going to vary depending on whether you're in a city or in a more rural area.

The fastest 5G speeds, available through mmWave technology, will be limited to urban areas. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg this week explained that millimeter wave high-frequency spectrum isn't suitable for widespread coverage, a sentiment shared by T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray, who wrote a blog post on the subject earlier this week.
Some of this is physics - millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum has great potential in terms of speed and capacity, but it doesn't travel far from the cell site and doesn't penetrate materials at all. It will never materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments.
AT&T has launched its 5G network in a handful of markets across the United States, and other carriers, like Verizon, have also been starting their 5G network rollouts.

There are few smartphones that are able to take advantage of 5G networks at the current time, but additional 5G smartphones are expected later in 2019.

Rumors suggest Apple's first 5G iPhone will come out in 2020, when 5G networks are more mature and more widely available. Apple is planning to use chips from Qualcomm and perhaps Samsung now that Intel is out of the 5G smartphone modem chip business.

Tags: AT&T, 5G, 5G iPhone

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Kuo: 2020 iPhones to Support 5G, Qualcomm and Samsung Likely to Supply Modems

2020 iPhones will support 5G networks, with chipmaker Qualcomm likely to supply Apple with 5G modems for the devices after the two companies settled their high-profile legal battle last week, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.


Interestingly, Kuo also expects Samsung to fulfill some of the 5G modem orders in select markets. Apple frequently aims to diversify its supply chain in an effort to reduce risk and have improved bargaining power, potentially reducing its costs as multiple suppliers engage in a price war to win orders.

An excerpt from Kuo's latest research note, obtained by MacRumors:
Apple and Qualcomm's end of patent dispute and entrance into a six-year licensing deal implies new 2H20 iPhone models will support 5G; Qualcomm and Samsung are potential 5G baseband chip suppliers: The market was worried that Intel's disappointing 5G baseband chip development might be the most severe uncertainty for the new 2H20 iPhone models' adoption of 5G. But we believe the uncertainty has been removed after Apple and Qualcomm's end of patent dispute and entrance into a six-year licensing deal, and Intel's announcement that it will exit the 5G baseband chip business. We expect Apple will likely adopt 5G baseband chips made by Qualcomm (focus on mmWave markets) and Samsung (focus on Sub-6GHz markets) for lowering supply risk, reducing costs and having better bargaining power.
Kuo believes that 5G will be a boon for both iPhone sales and Apple's supply chain in 2020. He forecasts total iPhone shipments of 195–200 million units in 2020, including 70–75 million 5G models released in the second half of the year.

Qualcomm was already the widely expected frontrunner for 5G modems in 2020 iPhones after Intel announced it is exiting the 5G smartphone modem business.


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Huawei Hasn’t Held Talks With Apple About Supplying 5G Modems for iPhone

Huawei said on Tuesday it has not held talks with Apple about supplying 5G chips for future iPhones, just a day after its founder admitted it was "open" to doing so (via Reuters).

"We have not had discussions with Apple on this issue," Huawei's rotating Chairman Ken Hu said on Tuesday, adding he looked forward to Apple's competition in the 5G phone market.
Last week we covered a report suggesting that the Chinese tech firm might be interested in supplying the next-generation modem chips to Apple. The rumor was later confirmed on Monday, when CNBC published an interview with Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei in which he said the same thing.

The Chinese tech firm develops its own components including processors and modem chips, but has previously refused to supply them to third-parties, making its self-declared openness to sell to Apple all the more notable.

However, Apple has expressed no interest in using Huawei tech, despite potential suitability for Apple devices. That could be related to Huawei's dispute with the U.S. government, or perhaps Apple's own accusations that the firm uses "dubious tactics" to steal trade secrets.

Apple is rumored to be struggling in its plans to support 5G technology, with plans to introduce a 5G iPhone in 2020 stymied by partner Intel's inability to meet its own production timeline.

Switching to Qualcomm 5G chips instead seems increasingly unlikely, given Apple's ongoing legal battle with the company. Meanwhile, Apple has been in talks with Samsung and MediaTek about making 5G chips for 2020 iPhones, but there's no word on how discussions have been going.

Apple is also working on its own LTE chip designs for future iPhones, but that technology is not expected to be ready to ship until 2021.

Tags: Huawei, 5G

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