MediaTek announced their first 5G mobile SoC (system on a chip) this week, Dimensity1000. They also announced their partnership with Intel to bring 5G capabilities to PCs. Dell and HP have expressed their intention to incorporate MediaTek’s 5G solution in their laptops in early 2021.
As a mass-market mobile chipset maker, MediaTek traditionally followed industry pioneers after a new wireless generation introduction. Consider the case with LTE; when the first chipsets arrived in 2010, MediaTek was focused on high volume 3G chipsets. Their contribution to the industry had been to democratize technology by producing lower cost chipsets to enable affordable devices.
MediaTek’s Dimensity SoC is a single-chip solution where the 5G modem is integrated into the SoC. Integrated 5G solutions have been announced earlier by Qualcomm (Snapdragon 7xx), Samsung (Exynos 980) and Huawei (Kirin 990 5G) which follows the first batch of 5G handsets based on discrete 5G modem designs. Integrated SoC solutions are critical in reducing the board level real estate so that handset OEMs can reduce the overall printed circuit board size and power requirements. This is especially pronounced in 5G where the RF Front End requires more filters and antennas to manage the data traffic and speeds.
Intel’s partnership with MediaTek was a surprise, yet it makes sense since it sold its modem business to Apple. Partnering with Qualcomm was not really an option as they are competitors in the CPU space. Just as Intel is known for “Intel inside”, a parallel can be drawn in that “MediaTek is everywhere”. The company’s revenues can roughly be broken down equally into three verticals: mobile, consumer and connectivity. Therefore, moving into the PC space is a win for both parties. One draw back is that the MediaTek solution is only for 5G networks operating on sub 6 GHz, which is currently most prevalent in Asia. Qualcomm is the only vendor currently providing a mmWave solution.
To date, Qualcomm’s 8cx platform powers a hand full of “mobile laptops” which provide always on connectivity and longer battery life. The ubiquity of the network and its speeds has not warranted a “must have” reaction thus far. However, with an integrated 5G solution and as networks continue to proliferate, there can be a resurgence in the PC market.
5G is here today in flagship devices. This technology shift is not only the “fastest G”, it is the most organized. Chipset developments are already in their 2nd or 3rd releases. Networks are rolling out globally faster than when compared to 4G. 5G is accelerating the industry and prompting traditional chip vendors, like MediaTek, to bring a new focus and mission to harness the innovation that 5G can provide in the mobile and consumer space.