Google is turning to Samsung to supply the 5G modem for its next flagship Pixel smartphone, marking the first win for the Korean firm in a U.S. market dominated by American tech giant Qualcomm.
Headquartered in San Diego, California, and incorporated in Delaware, Qualcomm creates semiconductors, software, and services related to wireless technology. The company is closely involved with the development of 5G industry standards and has produced technological innovations in millimeter wave technology, antenna technology, and other technical areas of 5G development.
Earlier this month, Google revealed that it had designed its own processor chip to power its new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro high-end phones, bringing its complete reliance on Qualcomm to an end. Qualcomm will still supply chips for the lower-priced Pixel 5A.
Google’s corroboration with Samsung is necessary as Samsung is one of the only three companies in the world capable of making 5G modems that connect devices to wireless networks, the other two companies being Taiwan’s MediaTek, and Qualcomm. Samsung widely 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 U.S. versions. That is in part because Qualcomm has a technology lead in a variant of 5G networking called millimeter wave, which provides the fastest speeds available with the new networks.
To date, all smartphones released in the United States, including Apple’s iPhone, have used Qualcomm chips to tap millimeter-wave networks. While Google and Samsung said that their respective products would be capable of millimeter-wave networking, they, however, did not say whether they were working together on the new pixel.
Market leader in the chipmaking sector, Qualcomm, in a statement, said it maintains its technological advantage because its millimeter wave technology relies on chips other than modems. “Modems are not sufficient to support millimeter waves in mobile phones,” the company said.
Samsung has never before sold its 5G modem chip technology to an outside company. Winning Google’s Pixel business gives the South Korean company its first big chance to showcase its chipmaking skills to the phone industry on a broader scale.