SAN JOSE, Calif. – Intel Corp. could move into third place as a provider of smartphone modems if a growing number of reports are accurate it has won a substantial portion of sockets for LTE baseband chips in Apple’s iPhone 7. Such a deal would be a significant shot in the arm for Intel’s wireless business which took cuts in applications processors in the wake of a massive reorg announced in April.
Intel will provide more than 20 million LTE chips for iPhone 7 handsets for AT&T, according to a report from Bloomberg citing an unnamed source and Wall Street analysts. Such a deal could propel Intel into third place in smartphone modems next year from its 2015 position of a three-way tie for sixth place, according to Will Strauss, principal of market watcher Forward Concepts (Tempe, Ariz.).
Qualcomm dominated the 1.3-billion unit smartphone baseband market last year with a 57% share, followed by Mediatek at 25% and Spreadtrum at 6%, according to Strauss. Samsung was in fourth place at 3% and Huawei’s had a 2% share with a chip from its HiSilicon division used only in its own phones and not for sale in the merchant market. Intel shared last place at 1% with Leadcore and Marvell.
Given signs from Qualcomm, the supply chain in Asia and analysts, the Apple/Intel deal is “a virtual certainty” according to Strauss. “Intel will probably displace Spreadtrum next year for the number three spot in units and possibly the number two spot in revenue” given the generally high average selling prices of leading-edge LTE chips, he said.
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