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Apple poached Intel’s lead 5G engineer in February to expand its own smartphone modem team

More details continue to emerge this weekend about the behind-the-scenes drama of Apple’s dealings with Intel and Qualcomm. According to a report from The Telegraph, Apple poached Intel’s lead 5G modem developer earlier this year.

According to the report, which cites a leaked email, Apple hired Umashankar Thyagarajan from Intel in February. Thyagarajan also confirmed the change on his LinkedIn profile, where he lists that he works on chip architecture at Apple.

In the leaked email cited by The Telegraph, Intel executives Messay Amerga and Abhay Joshi explained that Thyagarajan had played a key role in developing the Intel modem used in the 2018 iPhones. Furthermore, the two executives acknowledged that he had been the project engineer on the XMM 8160 modem, the 5G chip that was destined for future iPhones.

Thyagarajan worked at Intel for over 7 years total, serving in various roles related to mobile platform architecture. For the past three and a half years, he was Intel’s “senior director” of project engineering for 5G. A report yesterday suggested that Apple had considered buying Intel’s smartphone modem business, but ultimately those talks broke down.

Thyagarajan’s departure is said to have been a “setback” for Intel’s 5G modem efforts. Shortly after the February departure, reports emerged questioning Intel’s timeline as it struggled to meet deadlines for its 5G modem.

Mr Thyagarajan’s departure is understood to have been a setback to Intel’s efforts, forcing the company to reshuffle the 5G project.

According to an email sent to Intel staff, written by executives Messay Amerga and Abhay Joshi, Mr Thyagarajan had “played a key role” in the Intel chip that featured in last year’s iPhones and he had been the project engineer on developing its 5G chip, known as XMM 8160.

Ultimately, Intel announced last week that it was leaving the 5G smartphone modem business altogether as it saw no path to profitability. Apple reached a settlement with Qualcomm on the same day, though Intel’s CEO has said that Intel’s move was prompted by the settlement, not vice versa.

While Thyagarajan’s departure may have tanked Intel’s 5G smartphone modem efforts, it’s sure to help Apple. The company has been expanding its in-house modem efforts at a rapid pace recently, though we are likely still several years away from an Apple-designed modem shipping in the iPhone.

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Avatar for Chance Miller Chance Miller

Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

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