Embroiled in Patent Conflicts, Qualcomm Loses Wireless Executive to Apple

In January, Apple opened a lawsuit against Qualcomm for charging excessive patent royalties on the cellular modems Apple puts in smartphones. On Tuesday, a vice president of engineering who played a major role in Qualcomm’s modem business said that he had been hired by Apple.

Esin Terzioglu, who had overseen Qualcomm’s baseband processors for the last eight years, announced on his LinkedIn page that he taken a job as wireless SoC lead at Apple. He recently led the engineering team that Qualcomm’s modems to 10 nanometers, down from the 14 nanometer technology that until last year was state-of-the-art.

In a LinkedIn post that has since been removed, Terzioglu said that it was time “to move on to my next adventure.” He added: “It has been my honor and privilege to have worked with so many talented and dedicated individuals at Qualcomm.”

The post was first reported on Twitter by technology analyst Neil Shah of Counterpoint Research.

The move is the latest whiff of Apple’s chip-making ambitions. Many industry analysts said that the hiring could suggest that Apple is planning to build a custom modem chip. Adding to the speculation is that Apple’s relationship with Qualcomm has ruffled in the last year, with the company ordering some modem chips from Intel and filing the patent lawsuit.

Apple, which designed the Series-A processors in its smartphones and the wireless chips inside its AirPods, has poached engineers from Qualcomm and others in recent years. While the company has filed patents for baseband modems and other chips, it has increasingly sparred with suppliers that depend on Apple contracts for large chunks of revenue.

In April, Imagination Technologies disclosed that Apple planned to stop using its graphics technology in smartphones and other gadgets within two years. Having poached engineers from Imagination for years, Apple will brew its own graphics from scratch.

The hire comes amid a bitter challenge to how Qualcomm’s most profitable business wields its patents, which contain standard technology for tapping into 3G and 4G networks. Apple is seeking at least $1 billion in the lawsuit, which claims that Qualcomm charged exorbitant fees and punished it for aiding antitrust investigators. Qualcomm filed a countersuit in April and sued several of Apple’s contract manufacturers this month.

Terzioglu previously worked as a principal scientist at Broadcom before leaving to start an embedded memory company called Novelitics, where he served as the chief technology officer.  He holds master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

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