Google brings Samsung 5G modem tech to U.S. market with new Pixel phone -sources

The company logo will be displayed at the Samsung press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas January 7, 2013. REUTERS / Rick Wilking / File Photo

August 25 (Reuters) – Google will switch to Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) to deliver the 5G modem for its next flagship Pixel smartphone, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, signaling the first victory for the Korean company in a US market dominated by Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM.O).

Earlier this month, Google announced that it had developed its own processor chip to power its new high-end Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones, ending its complete reliance on Qualcomm, which continues to have chips for the cheaper Pixel 5A will deliver.

Nikkei Asia previously reported that Samsung will make the processor for Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc. (GoogL.O). Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that Samsung will also deliver the 5G modem technology.

Samsung’s move to provide the Pixel’s modem technology is important as the Korean company is one of only three companies in the world that can make 5G modems that connect devices to wireless data networks. The others are Qualcomm, by far the market leader, and Taiwan’s MediaTek Inc (2454.TW).

Samsung uses its Exynos modem technology in its own flagship smartphones in Asia and Europe. However, it has long relied on Qualcomm to provide modems for US versions.

That’s partly because Qualcomm has a technology leader in a variant of the 5G network called Millimeter Wave, which offers the fastest speeds available with the new networks. To date, all of the smartphones released in the United States – including those from Apple Inc. (AAPL.O) iPhone – used Qualcomm chips to tap millimeter wave networks.

Samsung told Reuters that its new modem technology would be capable of millimeter-wave networks, and Google said its new phones will support millimeter-wave networks like previous versions, although neither company would comment directly on whether they would work together on the new Pixel.

Winning Google’s Pixel business gives Samsung its first major opportunity to demonstrate its chipmaking skills to the broader phone industry that has long shied away from buying a key component from a fierce competitor, said Kevin Krewell, senior analyst at TIRIAS Research. The Korean company has never sold its 5G modem chip technology to an outside company.

Qualcomm said in a statement that it has kept its technological edge because its millimeter wave technology relies on other chips besides the modem. “A modem is not enough to support millimeter waves in phones,” Qualcomm said.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis and Paresh Dave; additional coverage by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang; Adaptation by Peter Henderson and Howard Goller

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