A couple week ago, MediaTek made a series of announcements geared towards further development of the 5G industry. MediaTek has shown itself to be a world leader in 5G through its enablement of the technology on devices around the world. While MediaTek may not be a household name for most yet, its chips are pervasive in many devices used every day around the home—from smartphones and smart TVs to smart speakers and Chromebooks. Geared towards short-term, near-term and long-term 5G development, I believe MediaTek’s latest announcements further solidify its position as a leader in the 5G space. Let’s take a look at the news, starting with the nearest term.
Motorola Edge (2022)
First, we learned that Motorola’s new Edge (2022) device will feature the Dimensity 1050, MediaTek’s first mmWave 5G-capable SoC which it announced last year. Positioned as an upper mid-tier device, the $499 Motorola Edge is more affordable than its predecessor, purportedly without sacrificing any major features. The MediaTek Dimensity 1050 is one of the device’s more notable aspects. For one, it opens up the Verizon variant of the device to fully support Verizon’s 5G UW network (the T-Mobile variant, coming first, will not support mmWave 5G). The Dimensity 1050 also enables the device to support standalone 5G carrier aggregation, which means it can make the most of the various mid-band 5G blocks that the different carriers have acquired in the last few years.
Another thing to note about this device is that the T-Mobile variant will be the first device on T-Mobile’s network to deliver power class (PC) 1.5, which improves 5G uplink performance for T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity (2.5 GHz) 5G network. Uplink is traditionally the most power-intensive process for a device, which means that improving it directly enhances upload performance, network coverage and battery life. T-Mobile claims that PC 1.5 can improve Ultra Capacity 5G uplink speeds by nearly 3x inside buildings.
The T-Mobile variant of the Motorola Edge (2022) will be available to new and existing T-Mobile customers for free via 24 monthly bill credits when they add a new line.
Next, let’s look at MediaTek’s newly announced T830 platform. To understand the significance of this offering, it’s important to understand how big of a growth opportunity fixed wireless 5G (or FWA 5G) is for the industry, especially in the US. As Sue Marek over at Fierce Wireless so eloquently put it, FWA is the first 5G success story. Verizon is offering a $25 monthly promotional plan (with wireless service) and T-Mobile is offering a $50 plan without any frills. The GSA reports that it expects global 5G FWA CPE device shipments to double this year to 7.6 million from 3.6 million last year. 5G FWA’s growth is significant enough to impact Comcast and Charter’s recent subscriber growth. If Verizon and T-Mobile’s promotion of their FWA services is any indication, we can expect subscriber numbers to continue to grow. T-Mobile and Verizon together added 816,000 5G FWA customers in Q2 2022 alone, with both companies seeing colossal subscriber growth. T-Mobile is accelerating faster, with 338,000 FWA 5G customers added in Q1 and 560,000 in Q2–almost 900,000 5G FWA customers in the first half of the year. Conservative estimates show T-Mobile hitting 1.7 million by the end of the year. Verizon is also seeing huge growth, albeit on a smaller scale—194,000 in Q1 and 256,000 in Q2, for a total of 450,000 in the year’s first half. Together, T-Mobile and Verizon have gained 1.35 million new fixed wireless customers, primarily from cable operators like Charter and Comcast. Since these businesses are gaining more recognition from customers and the industry, I expect that this acceleration will continue at least until the end of the year. I believe we could easily see three million new FWA 5G “home internet” customers from T-Mobile and Verizon in 2022.
All of Verizon’s deployments and the majority of T-Mobile’s deployments currently ship with MediaTek’s T750 platform, a 7nm-based solution with an Arm quad-core A55 CPU, with a peak download speed of 4.7 Gbps and a peak upload of 2.3 Gbps with dual 2.5 Gbps Ethernet. The solution’s chipset (MT6890) is an integrated 5G SoC that combines CPU processing, modem and switching with one of MediaTek’s current Wi-Fi 6 solutions. MediaTek’s OEM partners have also deployed the T750 in 5G Wi-Fi hotspot solutions, which serve as a bridge to 5G for devices that don’t have modems or can’t upgrade as frequently. I believe MediaTek’s integrated solution is the reason why MediaTek won so many of the 5G CPEs (Consumer Premise Equipment) for this generation.
This brings us to the T750’s recently announced follow up, the MediaTek T830, which features the 2nd generation of MediaTek’s 5G CPE and Wi-Fi hotspots and upgraded capabilities across the board. An upgraded process node, TSMC’s 4nm, gives the T830 considerable power savings over the T750, with the same quad-A55 processor (albeit slightly higher clocked thanks to the improvement of the process node).
MediaTek also upgraded the downlink throughput of the platform’s integrated M80 Release 16 modem by almost 50% to 7 Gbps over the previous generation’s 4.7 Gbps. MediaTek also improved the modem’s gigabit ethernet LAN speeds to a maximum 20 Gbps, providing the platform with expanded ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity that can take advantage of the 5G connectivity speeds. There are many ways an OEM could utilize the T830’s 20 Gbps, including pairing it with MediaTek’s Filogic 680 to deliver tri-band 4x4 Wi-Fi 7 for gigabit Wi-Fi speeds for a CPE, or the Filogic 380, to provide dual-band 2x2 Wi-Fi 7 for a portable Wi-Fi hotspot (lower power but still capable of running high-performance applications).
I expect MediaTek’s T830 will allow the company to retain its dominant position in 5G FWA, considering how well-poised it is to take advantage of the continued rapid growth of 5G FWA. I also believe that as both Verizon and T-Mobile’s mid-band coverage improves, we could see both companies continue to gain customers and tailor their offerings to compete with Comcast and Charter. I see this as good for consumers, since those business have not had any real competition in years. While AT&T isn’t part of the FWA 5G conversation today, I do believe it could join the fray next year after its mid-band network is built out further.
The T830 is expected to begin shipping inside commercial devices in the second half of next year.
3GPP Non-Terrestrial Networks
Looking a little further down the line, there is also a vision of 5G’s use beyond terrestrial networks—specifically, leveraging satellites as an additional band to smartphones. Non-terrestrial networks (NTN) could be the ultimate coverage band, giving connectivity to everyone all the time, whether outdoors or indoors. In the 3GPP standard for Release 17 (finalized recently by the 3GPP) there is an expectation that 5G devices, whether smartphones or IoT endpoints, could have satellite communications as an additional source of data and location accuracy mostly for messaging and voice services.
MediaTek recently announced a collaboration with industry testing leader Rohde & Schwarz to demonstrate the potential of 5G NTN technology. The test leveraged Rohde & Schwarz equipment in a lab environment to emulate a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite channel, such as OneWeb or StarLink, at an altitude of 600km. Connecting to the simulation via a smartphone with 5G NTN capabilities, MediaTek was able to transfer data using Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute’s (ITRI) next-generation gNB(gNodeB also known as a base station). According to MediaTek, this lab demonstration was a world first.
This news comes on the heels of Qualcomm’s recently announced partnership with Thales and Ericsson in France to test and validate 5G NTN as well as T-Mobile and SpaceX’s new partnership. In other words, we can expect other industry players to follow MediaTek and Qualcomm’s lead. While 3GPP Rel.17 is still a fair ways away, I would say that we are probably a year or two from seeing any commercial products with 5G NTN, and that’s assuming everything goes according to plan. Still, 5G NTN holds a lot of promise. I hope that it helps people recognize 5G’s potential to usher us into the next age of the internet and connectivity. If it does, MediaTek will be right there in the middle of it.
The last few weeks have been busy for MediaTek (and for us analysts and press, for that matter). In my view, the company successfully demonstrated its growth across multiple areas of 5G. I was particularly impressed by the breadth of technology and time horizon these announcements covered, for they show the leadership position MediaTek has staked out at the bleeding edge of 5G. The company’s position in 5G seems to only gets stronger with every launch, as evidenced by the T830 and Dimensity 1050.
I expect that we’ll see even more from MediaTek at the Executive Summit in November.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.