In context: It seems Intel's shift away from 5G modems was preceded by a major coup from Apple, one that saw Intel lose its key 5G project engineer. Apple poached Umashankar Thyagarajan from Intel back in February, where the former Intel 5G engineer will presumably work on mobile hardware for Apple. It seems Intel's 5G modem plans lived and died with Apple, as the company represented Intel's biggest modem customer and has now hired away Intel's top talent working on 5G.
Intel's recent decision to exit the 5G phone modem business appeared to coincide with Apple and Qualcomm burying the hatchet on their long standing legal disputes. However, recent news via a report from The Telegraph suggest that decision was made weeks ahead of the Apple/Qualcomm truce.
The Telegraph claims to have learned that back in February, Apple hired Umashankar Thyagarajan out from under Intel. The move is not privileged knowledge, as Thyagarajan's LinkedIn profile confirms his new employment. However, emails ostensibly in the possession of The Telegraph confirm Thyagarajan was the project engineer for Intel's XMM 8160 chip -- the chip that was key to Intel's 5G modem strategy.
Exactly what role Thyagarajan has assumed at Apple is unclear; his Linkedin profile only lists "Architecture at Apple." But given his experience in the realm of 5G and Apple's increasing desire to design its own hardware in-house, we can infer that Thyagarajan is now working on 5G mobile chips for Apple.
So besides losing its biggest customer for 5G modems, Intel also its preeminent project engineer responsible for development of the chips. Even more reason for Intel to abandon its 5G development, in theory. A number of analysts say that Intel under new CEO Bob Swan was not happy about pursuing this particular piece of business and they're better off focusing on other core areas of their product portfolio.