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This new MediaTek chip is about to bring 5G to a lot more devices

MediaTek M60 5G RedCap Modem.

One of the biggest promises of 5G technology isn’t merely faster performance but rather the ability to power a far more connected world — a global network where every device can get online from just about anywhere.

That’s the vision behind MediaTek’s new M60 5G modem and T300 chip, which aim to be small and efficient enough to bring 5G to wearables, internet-of-things (IoT) devices, and other electronics that benefit from reliable internet connectivity but don’t require the massive speed and bandwidth of modern laptops and smartphones.

Reduced capability for greater efficiency

MediaTek M60 5G RedCap Modem Infographic.

MediaTek’s new 5G modem uses the new 3GPP “RedCap” standard, an abbreviation for reduced capability. Also known as 5G NR-Light, RedCap chips are designed to provide the benefits of 5G, such as low latency and broad connectivity, without the power requirements of more traditional higher-bandwidth 5G chips.

The tradeoff is that you don’t get the eye-watering 5G speeds delivered by ultrafast mmWave and aggregated sub-6 technologies. However, RedCap is designed to cater to a broad range of consumer and industrial devices that don’t need to send and receive the massive amounts of data that would require a high-speed 5G connection.

Instead, the MediaTek M60 is targeted at devices like smartwatches, lightweight augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets, IoT devices, and industrial sensors. These devices all benefit from ubiquitous connectivity, but they sip data compared to other connected devices like smartphones and tablets, and they don’t have nearly as much power to spare.

This is where MediaTek’s RedCap chips make a big difference. The M60 modem and MediaTek T300 chip make up the world’s first 6nm Radio Frequency System-On-Chip (RFSOC) single die RedCap chip, which allows for a smaller size and greater power efficiency.

Using a single-core Arm Cortex-A35 in a compact design, the chip can handle download speeds of up to 227Mbps and upload speeds reaching 122Mbps — and it does it while consuming 70% less power, thanks to MediaTek’s UltraSave 4.0 technology.

A Pixel Watch and TicWatch Pro 5 side-by-side on a person's wrist.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

More significantly, the new 5G RedCap chips are small and efficient enough that MediaTek hopes manufacturers will be encouraged to shift away from older 4G/LTE technologies and fully embrace 5G connectivity.

“Our RedCap solutions are a significant part of our mission to democratize 5G, providing our customers the ability to optimize components and deliver 5G-enabled devices from a range of applications and a range of price points,” JC Hsu, Corporate Senior Vice President at MediaTek said in a press release. “The migration to 5G RedCap will replace legacy 4G/LTE solutions, offering significantly better power efficiency and more reliable user experiences compared to leading edge 5G eMMB modem solutions and legacy 4G LTE Cat 4 and Cat 6 devices.”

MediaTek plans to send out its first T300 series devices to sample early next year, where they’ll hopefully find their way into the first commercial products by late 2024.

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