Apple deleted a revealing job listing that hints at plans to cut Qualcomm and Intel chips from future phones

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  • Wireless networks are looking towards 5G, a new network technology that promises faster, higher bandwidth cellular internet.
  • So is Apple, according to a new job listing.

Apple is embroiled in a bitter legal battle over patents and royalties with Qualcomm, the chip maker that previously supplied all the modems that let iPhones connect to high-speed networks.

But the iPhone company is already looking forward towards a next-generation wireless technology – one that would reduce its dependence on companies like Qualcomm and let it control a key next-generation technology.

A job posting for a “mmWave IC design engineer” was recently taken down off Apple’s site, Cult of Mac noted on Monday.

The listing seems to be all about Apple creating a new chip in-house specially designed next-generation 5G networks, specifically millimetre wave networks, which promise much higher bandwidth than the current LTE networks iPhones connect to.

“In this highly visible role, you will be at the center of a silicon design group with a critical impact on getting functional products to hundreds of millions of customers quickly,” according to the listing.

“Work with platform architects, system group, and digital design group to define the requirements for mmWave phased-array front-end and baseband blocks based on the product requirements,” it continued. “Work with technology team and foundries on process evaluation/selection for the target device.”

Mirrors of the listing are still available on sites like Glassdoor, which said the job listing was posted on April 27. A Ph.D. is preferred for this job, according to the listing.

The listing is the closest thing to official confirmation that Apple plans to build its own 5G modem, instead of buying off-the-shelf components from Qualcomm or Intel. Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Testing 5G

Apple Park Innovation ZoneFCCApple applied for ‘innovation zones’ surrounding both of its headquarters to experiment with emerging wireless technology like 5G.

Apple has been testing millimetre wave technology in Cupertino, California since last May.

It received an experimental licence to test millimetre wave technology last May, Business Insider first reported.

“Apple Inc. seeks to assess cellular link performance in direct path and multipath environments between base station transmitters and receivers using this spectrum,” the 2017 application read.

“These assessments will provide engineering data relevant to the operation of devices on wireless carriers’ future 5G networks,” it continued.

Apple also joined an industry group for 5G technology last year as well.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that Apple’s 5G plans will be revealed in new FCC documents. Last week, the FCC published applications in which Apple was seeking permission to conduct new radio frequency tests inside “innovation zones” at both its Apple Park headquarters and 1 Infinite Loop campus.

The applications were tied to a new FCC regulation that allows companies like Apple greater ability to experiment with wireless technologies without as much regulatory paperwork. The 2018 applications do mention a “gigahertz” band – the millimetre wave bands Apple previously applied for permission to test were 28 GHz and 39 GHz.

The future of wireless

INFINITE LOOP INNOVATION ZONEFCC

Even if Apple weren’t at legal war with Qualcomm, Apple might want its own 5G modem technology. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that Apple wants to own all of its core technologies – and that includes silicon like the chips Qualcomm makes.

5G is certainly an exciting technology. Sprint and T-Mobile have said their plan to build a 5G network is one of the reasons the two companies are merging, and the two carriers expect their network to be ready for devices as soon as 2019.

Experts have said that millimetre wave is only one technology that will make up the 5G standard, which is still being finalised. The big advantage to millimetre wave is that it can achieve very high data rates, with much more bandwidth than current cellular networks.

However, there are drawbacks to millimetre wave technology as well. One issue is a “propagation” problem, which means that its waves can’t travel very far before they start losing information. Another problem with millimetre waves is often it requires a clear line-of-sight between the device and the transmitter.

Of course, Apple’s scientists and researchers are probably well aware of these drawbacks – but if it can develop a critical next-generation technology and cut out a legal foe at the same time, why wouldn’t it?

The full text of the job listing is below:

mmWave IC Design Engineer Job Number: 113681632 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Apr. 27, 2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary

In this highly visible role, you will be at the center of a silicon design group with a critical impact on getting functional products to hundreds of millions of customers quickly.

As a millimetre-wave IC design engineer, you will be responsible for providing circuit and system solutions for multi-gigabit wireless chips. Key Qualifications The ideal candidate will have 8+ years of mmWave, RF, and analogue integrated circuit design experience, with 3+ years in mmWave CMOS or SiGe circuit design. Extensive knowledge of all or many of the following fields: •Deep understanding in system specification and able to work with system architects to translate system requirement into circuit requirement at IC level. Familiar with various RF transceiver architectures and their trade-offs. •Deep understanding of fundamental microwave theories and concepts; such as transmission-lines concepts, power waves and scattering parameters, power gain expressions, gain, noise, and VSWR design trade offs. •Extensive experience in simulation and design of lumped and distributed passive structures; such CPW lines, coupled lines, directional couplers, dividers/combiners, phase shifters, inductors, and capacitors. •Extensive experience in analysis, design, and implementation of mmWave low-noise, broadband, and/or high-power amplifiers •Extensive experience in analysis, design, and implementation of mmWave frequency converting blocks and oscillators •Understanding of mmWave device modelling. Insights into packaging effects, integrated antenna arrays, supply isolations, high frequency ESD structures, and circuit layout for optimum performance. •Extensive experience in high frequency silicon characterization and debug.

Description

•Work with platform architects, system group, and digital design group to define the requirements for mmWave phased-array front-end and baseband blocks based on the product requirements. Work with technology team and foundries on process evaluation/selection for the target device. Design various transceiver blocks in TX, RX, and LX chains. Work with the design, layout, and chip integration teams to integrate the IP’s and verify the top level functionality and performance Work with mmWave test engineers to bring up and characterise chips

Education

MSEE is required. Ph.D is preferred

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