Private network could give MediaTek's 5G modem an edge

MediaTek is working with Ericsson and Far EasTone in Taiwan. (Ericsson)

5G chipmaker MediaTek is testing its products on a live network, using spectrum supplied by Far EasTone and Ericsson radio equipment. The companies worked together to create a private network that connects MediaTek's three manufacturing partner sites and its headquarters in Taiwan's HsinChu Science Park. 

MediaTek was already testing its 5G chipsets with help from Ericsson, which has a 5G standalone and non-standalone testing center in Taiwan. Typically the companies would apply for a license to test the chips in the lab with spectrum not being used by commercial operators.

Now MediaTek can test outdoors on commercial bands, using Far EasTone's 3.5 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum. The 3.5 GHz spectrum is used in the three manufacturing plants with Ericsson Radio Dots, and is anchored with LTE.  At the MediaTek headquarters site, the 28 GHz mmWave spectrum is used, also anchored with LTE. This site uses Ericsson's  AIR 1281 5G high-band Massive MIMO radios.

“Together with Ericsson, we provided MediaTek with a unique private network solution that optimizes the mix of spectrum for complex use cases," said Chee Ching, president of Far EasTone. "We believe many other enterprises like MediaTek can leverage the capabilities of a private network.”

MediaTek recently unveiled its newest 5G modem, which includes support for millimeter wave. The M80 5G modem promises download speeds as fast as 7.67 Gbps and upload speeds of up to 3.76 Gbps, but is not yet shipping in devices. 

The companies said the private network will shorten the time-to-market for MediaTek's chipsets because tuning time will be reduced and because the chips will be tested in environments that exactly emulate the networks on which they will be used. Ericsson said that the network is also expected to enable MediaTek to accelerate volume production of the M80. 

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In addition to testing chips that are set for deployment, the network will be used to test new chips that MediaTek is developing. ”The private network serves as a platform for innovation," said MediaTek's JS Pan, general manager, wireless communication system and partnership. "Compared to the traditional lab setup, it broadens our testing coverage and expedites development progress.”

Chafic Nassif, president of Ericsson Taiwan, said it makes sense for Far EasTone to maintain the core network for MediaTek. He said this allows MediaTek to focus fully on its private network use case (testing) and also makes it easier to ensure that the private network is continuously updated to comply with 3GPP standards.

Although a private 5G network is a clear strategic advantage for a 5G chipmaker, Nassif thinks other Taiwanese companies may be ready to explore the technology. "We see Taiwan being very strategic in developing an innovation platform to build various new devices/software given the abundance of innovation and manufacturing capabilities existing in the market," he said. "And we will work with mobile operator customers very closely to explore new revenue potentials."