Simply put, there aren’t many companies left out there that still can make an LTE modem. Intel bought Infineon’s modem business to eventually integrate into their own SoCs, Qualcomm has their own LTE modem business which has been flourishing, and Nvidia bought Icera in order to integrate their soft modems into their SoCs. Samsung has their own modems that they integrated into their own SoCs, much like Qualcomm. However, they do not currently sell them separately. Broadcom also has their own 4G LTE modems, which they both sell and are working towards integrating into their applications processors. This leaves companies like Apple and AMD out on a limb without their own modem to integrate.
Renesas Mobile was a potential target for these companies to acquire relatively modern and up to date 4G LTE modem technology. Renesas Mobile is formerly a Nokia modem division which Renesas purchased for about $200 million with virtually no return on investment. This division is not necessarily an incredibly poorly performing division of the company when you consider that they managed $177 Million in sales based on Renesas’ own figures.
There were rumors that Renesas was looking for a buyer of their Renesas Mobile business, but it appears that they were unable to find a buyer that was willing to pay the price that they were looking for. Instead, it appears that Renesas will be shuttering the entire Renesas Mobile operation, a nearly $200 million business. This includes three different offices, including Renesas Mobile Europe Oy (Heksinki, Finland with 1,100 employees), Renesas Mobile India Private Limited (Bangalore, India with 300 employees) and Renesas Tongxinjishu Co. Ltd. (Beijing, China about 30 employees).
Renesas states that they will continue to supply older modem technology than the 4th generation, or 4G LTE technologies already in mass production and supplied to its customers. In addition, Renesas stated that they will remain committed to continue their operation related to car information systems and industrial equipment business, and further strengthen them as its core business, moving away from mobile communications.
Before writing this story, we got some indication that Renesas was only shutting down their 4G LTE business, however, upon clarification from Renesas Mobile representatives, it was made clear that the entire Renesas Mobile division is being shuttered and that current customers and products will be supported as operations are wound down. We still hope that nearly 1,500 people are able to keep their jobs if some company comes forward before the end of this year to snap up this modem business which is almost as critical as having spectrum. Renesas Mobile actually already has a Category 4 LTE modem capable of 150 Mbps speeds, something that many LTE modem manufacturers still can’t officially claim. It would be a real shame to see them simply disappear into nothing.