Earlier this year, Intel announced that it was leaving the smartphone modem business due to profitability concerns. Now, the company is set to auction off its portfolio of patents and IP related to smartphone modem technologies.
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IAM reports that Intel is looking to divest around 8,500 assets from its patent portfolio. The auction will consist of two primary parts, including Intel’s cellular portfolio and its connected device portfolio:
The auction offering is comprised of two parts: the cellular portfolio and a connected device portfolio. The former includes approximately 6,000 patent assets related to 3G, 4G and 5G cellular standards and an additional 1,700 assets that read on wireless implementation technologies. The latter is made up of 500 patents with broad applicability across the semiconductor and electronics industries.
What’s important to note here is that this auction is different than Intel’s attempts to sell its modem business, though it’s possible that one buyer could purchase both. Theoretically, purchasing Intel’s smartphone modem business would afford a company new engineers and executives. As for the patent portfolio, it’s possible that that a group of companies could band together and buy it.
The report also notes that Intel might be using its portfolio auction as a way to build interest in its modem business as a whole:
IAM understands that Intel is launching the auction process for its wireless IP separate to its current efforts to sell its smartphone modem business, although a prospective buyer may look to pick up both.
It could be that Intel’s decision to sell its portfolio is part of a strategy to drum up interest in the modem business as a whole. There is no indication yet that Intel has ruled out selling the patent assets to a non-practicing entity, which might encourage a group of operating companies to band together to take the assets off the assertion market.
Apple is rumored to be interested in Intel’s modem business. In April it was reported that Apple had considered buying Intel’s smartphone modem business, but that nothing ultimately came of those negotiations. Earlier this month, however, a report said that Apple was still in talks with Intel to acquire at least part of its smartphone modem business.
Apple is working on developing its own in-house 5G modems for the iPhone. The 2020 iPhone is expected to use a 5G modem from Qualcomm, but Apple’s could be ready as early as 2022.