Google will turn to Samsung to provide the 5G modem for its next flagship Pixel smartphone, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, signaling the Korean company’s first victory in a US market dominated by Qualcomm Inc.
Earlier this month, Google said it had designed its own processor chip to power its new next-generation Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones, ending its total dependence on Qualcomm, which will still supply chips for the lower-priced Pixel 5A.
Nikkei Asia previously reported that Samsung will manufacture the processor for Google, a unit of Alphabet. Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that Samsung will also provide the 5G modem technology.
Samsung’s move to supply Pixel’s modem technology is important because the Korean company is one of only three companies in the world capable of making 5G modems that connect devices to wireless data networks. The others are Qualcomm, the market leader by a wide margin, and Taiwan’s MediaTek.
Samsung extensively uses its Exynos modem technology in its own flagship smartphones in Asia and Europe. But it has long relied on Qualcomm to provide modems for US versions.
That’s partly because Qualcomm is a technology leader in a variant of the 5G network called the millimeter wave, which provides the fastest speeds available with new networks. To date, every smartphone launched in the United States – including Apple’s iPhone – has used Qualcomm chips to access millimeter-wave networks.
Samsung told Reuters its new modem technology is capable of millimeter wave networks, and Google said its new phones will support millimeter wave networks like previous versions, though neither company has commented on whether they are working together on the new Pixel.
Winning Google’s Pixel deal gives Samsung the first big chance to showcase its chip-making skills to the broader phone industry, which has long feared buying a major component of a fierce rival, said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at TIRIAS Research. The Korean company has never before sold its 5G modem chip technology to an outside company.
Qualcomm in a statement said it maintained its technology leadership because its millimeter wave technology depended on chips other than the modem. “A modem is not enough to support millimeter waves on phones,” Qualcomm said.
© Thomson Reuters 2021