(Image courtesy of Maurizio Pesce).

Embroiled in Patent Conflicts, Qualcomm Loses Wireless Executive

June 1, 2017
Esin Terzioglu was an engineering executive in charge of the wireless modems at the heart of Qualcomm's many patent conflicts. He recently took a job with Apple, which is also fighting Qualcomm in court.

In January, Apple opened a lawsuit against Qualcomm for charging excessive patent royalties on the cellular modems Apple uses in smartphones. Now, an engineering executive that played a major role in making the modems has been hired by Apple.

Esin Terzioglu, who oversaw Qualcomm’s baseband processors for the last eight years, announced on Tuesday that he taken a job as wireless SoC lead at Apple. Most recently, he led the engineering team that pushed Qualcomm’s modems from 14 nanometers down to 10 nanometers.

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 wireless chips inside its AirPods, has poached engineers from Qualcomm and other chip makers 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 for large chunks of revenue.

In April, Imagination Technologies disclosed that Apple planned to stop using its graphics technology in smartphones, tablets, 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 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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