Mediatek Democratizes Satellite And 5G At Mobile World Congress 2023


MediaTek’s presence at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) event has been growing along with the company’s prominence in the cellular and IoT spaces. This year, it has once again increased its presence at the show to demonstrate along with partners its recent innovations and new products in IoT and 5G. The biggest announcements came this week in the lead-up to the show, as MediaTek debuted yet another new Dimensity SoC and a new 5G Satellite-capable chipset as well as mobile devices with NTN (non-terrestrial network) capability.

MediaTek’s role in the 5G satellite market

There’s no doubt that Apple has thrust the industry into yet another technology trend. This is true even though many companies—MediaTek among them—have been working tirelessly for years to implement satellite connectivity in smartphones. MediaTek long ago decided that its approach would be entirely standards-based, meaning it would be compatible with the 3GPP 5G NR standard for satellite communications, which was launched in the Release 17 spec.

MediaTek’s new MT6825 is a standalone chipset designed to complement a smartphone’s existing features by adding 3GPP IoT-NTN capabilities to enable two-way NTN messaging. However, there are many other applications outside of smartphones where this chipset could prove helpful, especially in areas with poor cellular coverage. Just imagine, for instance, a ruggedized tablet used by technicians on a deep-water oil rig. You can learn more about MediaTek’s background in NTN from this piece I wrote last summer.

MediaTek is also targeting 5G NR-NTN capabilities, which should bring better performance and more capabilities such as voice and video to 5G satellite connectivity. However, most satellites today don’t support the 1+ Mbps speed that NR-NTN is expected to deliver; that will likely have to come once next-generation constellations launch in the 2025 timeframe. Constellations being made up of a network of a certain number and generation of satellite technology from a given company. MediaTek has been working for a long time with other contributor companies in the 3GPP to bring NTN to the spec and democratize the technology. That said, we expect that many devices taking advantage of satellite connectivity in the coming years will be premium devices, especially when you consider the additional engineering and BOM costs that come with discrete modems like this one and other RF components.

Eventually, though, we believe that satellite could become the base level of connectivity for emergency services required by governments to ensure that people are safe no matter where they venture. However, that likely won’t come for many years—that is, until most smartphone SoCs have built-in satellite capabilities and the cost structure has been normalized for mainstream use. I believe that will happen once there is some consolidation of which bands are used for 5G satellite communications. Right now, carriers are using 5-megahertz slices of spectrum for satellite communications which leads to fragmentation; once NR-NTN rolls around, we could see as much as 20 megahertz of spectrum in use. Harmonization of spectrum for satellite networks will be critical to maximizing its adoption, much like we’ve seen with the use of 3.5–3.7 gigahertz globally for the 5G mid-band.

MediaTek is working closely with Bullitt on three commercially available devices with its MT6825 chipset that meet the Release 17 and 3GPP NTN standards. Those devices are two rugged smartphones—the Cat S75 and Motorola Defy 2—and the Motorola Defy Satellite Link (which really should be called a satellite hotspot). The Motorola Defy Satellite Link is a compact, portable Bluetooth accessory that attaches to Android or iOS devices to connect to the Bullitt Satellite Connect platform. Bullitt Satellite Connect enables users to access location sharing, emergency SOS and two-way satellite messaging from virtually any smartphone or tablet. I could see this being very attractive for users traveling into the wilderness or other places where coverage is nonexistent.

The new MediaTek Dimensity 7200 chipset

The new Dimensity 7200 adds a new tier to the MediaTek Dimensity family, where it sits between the old 1000 series and the new 8000 and 9000 series. The 7200 joins the 8200 and 9200 as the latest 5G chipset family members that utilize both the latest cores from Arm and the latest 4nm second-generation process node from TSMC. (For more detail on the Dimensity 9200, take a look at my analysis from November 2022.) The Dimensity 7200 is an eight-core design with two Arm Cortex-A715 cores at 2.8 gigahertz and six Arm Cortex-A510 cores, making it an all-64-bit design. It also sports an Arm Mali G610 MC4 GPU, so it features all the latest IP from Arm.

This new Dimensity 7000 series is designed to satisfy the mid-tier of the market with a 14-bit HDR ISP with 200-megapixel main camera support, a limited R16 5G modem that supports only Sub-6 gigahertz and a peak throughput of 4.7 Gbps. It does still support Dual 5G SIM and VoNR, but it comes with Wi-Fi 6E instead of the Wi-Fi 7 included in the higher tiers of MediaTek chipsets. The Dimensity 7200 also includes HyperEngine 5.0 gaming technologies, an older version of MediaTek’s technology suite for gaming. (The new Dimensity 9200 chips feature the more robust HyperEngine 6.0.) OEMs are expected to ship devices with the Dimensity 7200 SoC before the end of Q1—likely in the next few weeks.

MediaTek demos at MWC 2023

Thanks to MediaTek’s increased presence at MWC this year, the company will be running dozens of demos at its booth, some of which I am very excited to see in person. There will be a multitude of Dimensity 9200 demos across technologies like hardware ray tracing, variable-rate shading, Wi-Fi 7 throughput, and coexistence, as well as a display of all the new Dimensity 9000-series devices from OEM partners, including ASUS, Oppo and Vivo.

MediaTek will demo plenty of 5G technologies, including mmWave, NR NTN, satellite IoT and AI applications for modems and antennas. The company will also be showcasing its vision for 6G, which is becoming a more popular topic to discuss as 5G starts to transition towards 5G Advanced, also known as 5.5G. There will also be static demos of MediaTek’s 5G for CPE/Mi-Fi and telematics solutions, which are especially interesting because both of them are seen as tremendous growth areas for 5G in the near future. Finally, MediaTek and its Filogic Wi-Fi 7 ecosystem partners will display various devices and give live peak-throughput demos using the latest chipsets.

Wrapping up

Mobile World Congress is always an exciting show, and this year will be no different, especially because of MediaTek’s growing momentum with the Dimensity family of products across many of the world’s leading OEMs. For instance, Oppo recently debuted its new Find N2 Flip 2—complete with a MediaTek Dimensity 9000+ chipset— at a global launch event in London that generated a lot of excitement in the press.

For another example, MediaTek’s new satellite chipset announcement with Bullitt shows MediaTek’s leadership in the 5G satellite arena and sets the company up for success in the long term. I am excited to experience the demos that MediaTek has in store at MWC 2023 and will report back soon with my thoughts.