August 25 (Reuters) – Google will press Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) to deliver the 5G modem to its next flagship Pixel smartphone, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, signaling the first victory for the Korean company in the United States market dominated by Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O).
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 reliance on Qualcomm, which will continue to supply cheaper Pixel 5A chips.
Nikkei Asia previously reported that Samsung will produce the processor for Google, a device of Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O). Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters Samsung will also supply 5G modem technology.
Samsung’s move to offer Pixel modem technology is important because the Korean company is one of only three companies in the world capable of creating 5G modems that connect devices to wireless computer networks. The others are Qualcomm, the market leader by a large margin, and Taiwan’s MediaTek Inc (2454.TW).
Samsung uses a lot of its Exynos modem technology in its own flagship smartphones in Asia and Europe. But it has long relied on Qualcomm to supply modems for US versions.
This is partly because Qualcomm has a technology link in a variant of 5G network called millimeter wave, which provides the fastest speeds available with the new networks. To date, all smartphones released in the United States – including the Apple Incs (AAPL.O) iPhone – have used Qualcomm chips to tap millimeter-wave networks.
Samsung told Reuters that the new modem technology was capable of millimeter-wave networks, and Google said that the new phones will support millimeter-wave networks as previous versions did, although neither company would comment directly on working together on the new Pixel.
Winning Google’s Pixel business gives Samsung its first big chance to showcase its chipmaking skills to the broader phone industry, which has long been wary of buying a key component from a tough rival, said Kevin Krewell, chief analyst at TIRIAS Research. The Korean company has never before sold its 5G modem chip technology to an external company.
Qualcomm said in a statement that it retained the need for technology because millimeter-wave technology was dependent on other chips in addition to the modem. “A modem is not enough to support millimeter wave in phones,” said Qualcomm.
Reporting by Stephen Nellis and Paresh Dave; additional reporting by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang; edited by Peter Henderson and Howard Goller
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