Apple's Wi-Fi chip self-development remains a challenging venture, according to industry assessment

Jay Liu, Taipei; Jack Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: AFP

Recently, there has been a lot of news on the market regarding Apple's Wi-Fi chips. This includes MediaTek products potentially entering the Apple supply chain through non-mainstream products like Apple TV, as well as speculations that Apple may introduce its own Wi-Fi chips in new iPhones in 2025.

It is clear that Apple wants to take the Wi-Fi chip supply back into its control. However, industry sources pointed out that, based on the currently rumored progress and various technical limitations, it would be quite a challenge for Apple's self-developed Wi-Fi chips to hit the market in 2025.

According to industry rumors, similar to its investment in 5G modem chips, Apple has invested significantly in self-developing Wi-Fi chips. However, it has encountered certain bottlenecks, and there were reports of the project being temporarily halted and the team being reorganized. Coupled with Apple's struggles with 5G modem chip development, which has led to the extended partnership with Qualcomm, is an indication that leapfrogging in wireless chips is not an easy task.

In particular, mainstream companies in the market like Broadcom and Qualcomm have accumulated substantial experience and patented technologies in the wireless connection sector. Sources have stated that the entry barriers are very high, whether in wireless or wired networking chips.

Currently, Broadcom remains the primary supplier of Apple's Wi-Fi chips. Therefore, market opinions suggest that when Apple switches to its own Wi-Fi chips in 2025, Broadcom might bear the brunt of the impact.

Despite that, there is a general lack of confidence in Apple's self-developed Wi-Fi chips. Broadcom is not only the leader in smartphone Wi-Fi but is also the leader of the entire Wi-Fi market. Surpassing Broadcom's products in such a short time would certainly be quite a challenge for Apple.

IC design industry sources pointed out that it would be more reasonable for Apple to first introduce its chips in non-mainstream applications. However, from 5G modems to the current Wi-Fi chips, the reports have all stated that the goal is to directly introduce them into the iPhone. As the pillar of Apple's product lineup, the iPhone is not in a place to afford any mishaps.

In other words, Apple's self-developed chips will have to achieve the same connectivity and power consumption performance as Broadcom's and Qualcomm's chips to avoid dragging down iPhone sales. This goal appears to be a bit unrealistic. It should align more with the introduction of MediaTek's Wi-Fi chips into the Apple supply chain: not starting with smartphones but likely to begin with non-mainstream products.

Sources believe that unless Apple can poach or recruit a group of elite teams and invest significant resources in development, it won't be able to develop a viable wireless networking chip in the short term. From another perspective, it's also uncertain whether investing so much effort in peripheral chips is more cost-effective than simply procuring the chips externally.

Market sources stated that perhaps Apple should consider focusing its main resources on the processor chips, which have been performing exceptionally, to ensure competitiveness in the era of high-speed computing rather than being distracted by various peripheral chips.