As Qualcomm dispute drags on, Apple said to tap MediaTek for additional 2018 iPhone modem capacity

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Looking to reduce its reliance on legal foe Qualcomm, Apple is said to be eyeing a partnership with Taiwan's MediaTek, which could supply baseband modem chipsets for iPhones beginning in 2018.

Word of the potential partnership was reported on Tuesday by DigiTimes, which has a hit-or-miss track record on Apple product rumors, but frequently gets scoops on which companies land part orders from the iPhone maker.

Tuesday's report qualified that MediaTek "has a chance" to secure modem orders from Apple. The Cupertino, Calif., company already transferred half of its iPhone modem chipsets from Qualcomm to Intel, following Apple's lawsuit filed earlier this year, accusing Qualcomm of withholding nearly $1 billion in rebates.

In addition, word of MediaTek gaining a role in Apple's supply chain was already previously reported by The Wall Street Journal in October.

According to DigiTimes, Apple has three key principles it expects of suppliers, all of which MediaTek meets: Companies must offer leading technological competitiveness, they must have comprehensive product blueprints, and they need reliable logistic support.

Beyond the iPhone, it was speculated that MediaTek could cooperate with Apple on future product lines like smart speakers and wireless charging devices. That would suggest the company could contribute to the HomePod and AirPower product lineups down the road.

In its dispute with Qualcomm, Apple claims the company withheld some $1 billion in royalty rebates in retaliation for cooperating with South Korean antitrust investigators. The ongoing issues could be rendered moot if Qualcomm is acquired by Broadcom, which has allegedly considered a hostile takeover priced at well over $100 billion.