People familiar with the matter told Reuters that Google will hire Samsung to provide 5G modems for its next-generation flagship Pixel smartphones, marking the South Korean company’s first win in the US market dominated by Qualcomm.
Earlier this month, Google revealed that it has designed its own processor chip to power its new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro high-end phones, ending its complete dependence on Qualcomm, and Qualcomm will continue to offer lower prices. Pixel 5A provides the chip.
Nikkei Asia reported earlier that Samsung will manufacture processors for Alphabet’s Google. Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that Samsung will also provide 5G modem technology.
Samsung’s move to provide Pixel modem technology is important because the South Korean company is one of only three companies in the world that can manufacture 5G modems that connect devices to wireless data networks. The others are market leader Qualcomm and Taiwan MediaTek.
Samsung uses its Exynos modem technology extensively in its flagship smartphones in Asia and Europe. But it has long relied on Qualcomm to provide modems for the US version.
This is partly due to Qualcomm’s technological leadership in a variant of the 5G network called millimeter wave, which provides the fastest speed available for the new network. So far, all smart phones released in the United States-including Apple’s iPhone-have used Qualcomm chips to connect to the millimeter wave network.
Samsung told Reuters that its new modem technology can support millimeter wave networks, and Google said its new phones will support millimeter wave networks like previous versions, but neither company will directly comment on whether they are cooperating on the new Pixel.
TIRIAS Research principal analyst Kevin Krewell said that winning Google’s Pixel business gave Samsung the first opportunity to demonstrate its chip manufacturing skills to the broader mobile phone industry, which has long been cautious about purchasing key components from fierce competitors. The South Korean company has never sold its 5G modem chip technology to outside companies before.
Qualcomm said in a statement that it maintains its technological leadership because its millimeter wave technology relies on other chips in addition to modems. “Modems are not enough to support millimeter waves in mobile phones,” Qualcomm said.
© Thomson Reuters 2021