With the 5G era kicking off across the globe, Qualcomm, Samsung, and Huawei have firmly established themselves as suppliers of modems for flagship devices. Meanwhile, smaller Taiwanese rival MediaTek has focused largely on the middle of the market — thus far, for phones that haven’t been released in the United States. Today, MediaTek is unveiling a new 5G chipset called the T750 that’s designed to win places in 5G broadband modems and portable hotspots as the company prepares to make a bigger U.S. splash with upcoming 5G laptops and phones.
The T750 seems as close to an all-in-one solution for broadband devices as a company can offer manufacturers at this point, integrating a 5G radio and quad-core ARM CPU into a small single die with 7-nanometer technology. OEMs can pick their preferred RF Front End components from suppliers like Murata, Qorvo, or Skyworks, as well as memory, purpose-suitable Ethernet and USB ports, a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chip, and either wall or battery power components. But T750 provides the system-level interface and handles the heavy lifting of managing the 5G connection, and it can be paired with an up to 720p display to help users visualize connectivity.
MediaTek’s move coincides with increasing global interest in 5G wireless technology as an alternative to wired broadband connections. Fueled by a properly built 5G network, the next-generation cellular standard can deliver up to 2Gbps download speeds — twice that of premium fiber connections — though most U.S. 5G networks are currently offering only a fraction of that potential. Even so, 5G could be a viable industrial and consumer alternative to wired internet access in rural areas that fiber and 4G have struggled to reach.
MediaTek expects that carriers will soon offer several tiers of 5G broadband service: a sub-$30 “basic” monthly package based on 25-100Mbps speeds, a $50 “mainstream” package with 100-500Mbps speeds, and a $100 or greater “premium” package with 1Gbps speeds. The first two offerings would use sub-6GHz 5G networks, while the third would depend on millimeter wave hardware.
On a positive note, T750’s 5G modem promises up to 40% less power consumption than current competing solutions, as well as support for 2CC carrier aggregation to enhance the speed and coverage of 5G connections. But like its prior solutions, the T750 only works with sub-6GHz 5G networks, not millimeter wave, an omission MediaTek doesn’t believe is an issue. Chief rival Qualcomm has offered alternatives with both sub-6GHz and millimeter wave 5G support and has succeeded in winning places in early 5G broadband modems and hotspots, though millimeter wave is still far from achieving mass market penetration in any major country.
Devices based on the T750 are expected in the second quarter of 2021, likely following the release of Intel- and MediaTek 5G-powered laptop PCs from HP and Dell early next year. As Intel sold most of its 5G modem business to Apple, the PC laptops will use MediaTek’s T700 5G modem, which offers capabilities similar to the T750. U.S. smartphones with MediaTek chips are likely to become available in the very near future.