MediaTek was late to adopt 4G LTE for its range of mobile processors, admits the Taiwanese company’s CEO Rick Tsai, a veteran of the industry who has worked for Taiwan’s Chungwa Telecom and TSMC, among others. However, it has no intention of making the same mistake with 5G. It’s also approaching the next big thing in mobile connectivity in a different way to its competitors, which may give it an interesting competitive advantage.
Digital Trends visited the firm’s headquarters in Taiwan to understand more about its approach. TL Lee, who has worked at MediaTek for 15 years and is currently the firm’s general manager for mobile, revealed its secret weapon to ensure it’s at the forefront of the 5G race — a 5G-capable system-on-a-chip (SOC) that takes up substantially less space inside a device, and doesn’t have the same high degree of power needs as others. This means phones won’t have to become giant, doorstep-thick blocks to accommodate big batteries and complex antenna arrays. It’ll arrive in 2020, after tests in 2019.
The only 5G product we’ve seen so far comes from Motorola, and is a Moto Mod add-on for its Moto X device. It looks like a big, external battery pack, and it is; but it also has a large antenna array inside. The Moto Mod will connect to
It’s not exactly a cellular system as we know it, and will instead rely on a network of 5G Wi-Fi routers to connect mobile devices to the new high-speed networks.
It’s not exactly a cellular system as we know it, and will instead rely on a network of 5G Wi-Fi routers to connect mobile devices to the new high-speed networks. The antennas and associated paraphernalia do not fit inside a modern phone without significant modification, resulting in larger, thicker phones and bigger batteries to cope with the power demands. TL Lee called mmWave, “technically challenging, especially for smartphones.”
MediaTek spends $1.8 billion annually on research and development, with Tsai saying 5G has been a major part of this for a while: “We put 10 times the resources into it since mid last year, and revised the strategy,” he said. What is the strategy for dealing with mmWave for now? Simply, it won’t use it yet. It’s going to continue working on developing mmWave technology, but believes the first few a years of
MedaTek backs Sub-6GHz 5G
So why Sub-6GHz? Tsai was very confident and answered, “That’s where the market will be for 5G for the next two to four years, while the demand increases for MmWave.”
Sub-6 5G is being adopted in China, Asia, and Europe, which Tsai called, “the most important regions for
A report from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) recently showed the amount of Sub-6GHz spectrum being allocated for global 5G use, which was currently greater than mmWave, showing MediaTek is in-line with operators bidding on and developing spectrum in its decision.
However, the fact remains the new MediaTek 5G chip only supports Sub-6GHz, and not mmWave. TL Lee called
Like everything 5G related, speed is of the essence.
He called 5G a, “level playing field,” at the moment, with all manufacturers working at a similar pace and towards the same goal. “It will take strong cooperation between networks, device makers and SOC makers to make
Sub-6 is top of MediaTek’s list now, but it’s not ignoring mmWave: “Both are being worked on,” Lee confirmed, showing MediaTek is grasping the chance to get in early with 5G, and also planning ahead while the technology for it matures. It’s not solely device difficulties that make Sub-6GHz the shrewd choice. CEO Tsai voiced financial concerns too, saying, “Investment may not be recovered [in
MediaTek’s competitor Qualcomm is also developing both Sub-6GHz and mmWave antennas for future 5G devices.
Like everything 5G related, speed is of the essence. Based on its 4G LTE misstep, can MediaTek keep up with the pace? Rick Tsai talked about major changes in the company’s thinking. Humility is at the firm’s heart, but it doesn’t want to be just another player — which it could have been viewed as over the past few years — it wants to be a technology leader, and these ambitions start at the very top — Tsai included. “Our mobile business has turned a corner,” he said, “and we are investing in
In 2019 MediaTek will test its new Helio M70 5G modem with global carriers, a chipset eventually destined for non-smartphone devices. MediaTek has ambitions in the automotive sector, where 5G will also play a big role, and already owns the smart speaker and smart TV market. You may not be aware, but everything from the Amazon Echo Dot to your Sony Android TV already has a MediaTek processor inside it.
The already announced Helio M70 will precede a currently unnamed 5G mobile SOC, and MediaTek intends to demonstrate its
Low cost, high performance
While this sounds like a long time away, don’t forget that 5G itself isn’t expected to be widely available until this time anyway. MediaTek also fully expects the mobile devices with its
Rick Tsai is aware of the hype around 5G, and spoke animatedly about its potential use cases. He talked about, “geniuses,” creating uses for
MediaTek will be inside the first wave of 5G products, Tsai confirmed, emphasizing that compared to the company’s pace for 4G, it’s right on target to play a major role in its highly anticipated, and potentially world-changing replacement.
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