MediaTek's new 5G SoC opens the door for cheaper 5G devices


Taiwanese chip maker MediaTek took the wraps off its multimode 7nm 5G chipset — the first mobile chipset with an integrated 5G modem. The new chipset combines the company’s Helio M70 5G modem, ARM’s recently announced Cortex-A77 CPU, Mali-G77 CPU, and Mediatek’s most advanced AI processing unit.

Most Global 5G Trials Aren't Using Sub 6GHz Spectrum

It’s designed for 5G stand-alone and nonstand-alone (SA/NSA) sub-6GHz networks and supports connectivity from 2G to 5G. The chipset will be ready for OEMs and manufacturers in Q3 2019, and the first wave of handsets with the system on a chip (SoC) will arrive in early 2020.

Here’s what it means: MediaTek’s SoC opens the door for 5G connections on affordable devices.

  • It lowers the price barrier of 5G devices. MediaTek’s 5G SoC saves on costs since it leaves off mmWave-connecting technology and instead works on 5G networks using sub-6GHz frequencies. For comparison, Qualcomm’s 5G SoC works with both sub-6 GHz and mmWave frequencies. Additionally, MediaTek’s pivot to single-chip solutions will help to bring down the cost of the SoC. 
  • It improves power efficiency. MediaTek’s decision to shrink the chip size to 7nm and include dynamic bandwidth switching, which allocates 5G bandwidth to specific applications, improves the power efficiency by 50%.

The bigger picture: MediaTek’s lack of support for all networking spectrum in 5G will limit uptake of the 5G SoC — leaving room for its main rival, Qualcomm, to fill the gap.  

The majority (57%) of telecoms globally are trialing 5G on spectrum bands outside of the sub-6GHz range, meaning devices with MediaTek’s 5G SoC will be unusable on their networks. We expect MediaTek’s strategy to drive away some OEMs and manufacturers looking to support 5G connectivity and reach audiences on networks beyond the sub-6GHz range. For instance, MediaTek’s 5G SoC is incompatible with some 5G networks in the US, at least for now: Verizon’s and AT&T’s early mobile 5G services currently use mmWave spectrum.

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