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MediaTek Advances in 5G

July 24, 2018

Author: Linley Gwennap

While competitors such as Qualcomm and Intel touted their progress on the next-generation cellular standard, MediaTek kept quiet, but it was hard at work. The company recently disclosed plans to ship its first 5G chip next year, in time for the launch of China’s first 5G network. The Helio M70 is a thin modem with full multimode support targeting wireless-broadband equipment and large mobile devices, putting MediaTek on a path to delivering a 5G smartphone processor soon afterward. The Taiwanese company will announce full product details next year, as the M70 gets closer to production.

Focusing on China Mobile, MediaTek will initially support sub-6GHz 5G, although the modem chip can function on any 5G band. The modem includes backward compatibility with 2G, 3G, and 4G signals. The company also sells an RF transceiver and a reference design for the RF front end (RFFE), which comes in multiple versions for different band combinations. Because MediaTek doesn’t supply RFFE components, this subsystem comprises third-party chips. About 6–9 months after the sub-6GHz reference design, the company plans to release a version for millimeter-wave systems, but they will require a more complex RF transceiver and RFFE.

Even with this advanced process, the M70 will be too hot for typical smartphones. Like many operators, China Mobile will use 5G to deliver broadband service, wirelessly bridging the last 100m to the home; the M70 is well suited to this type of gear. The chip could also appear in mobile hot spots, tablets, and maybe some oversize “phablet” phones. MediaTek plans to integrate the 5G baseband into a future smartphone (Helio) SoC, but to do so, it must reduce the modem’s size and power.

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