MediaTek ahead of schedule with 5G modem

Taiwan's MediaTek says its 5G modem chip will be ready to ship next year. (@SOGI.com.tw)

In another sign that 5G infrastructure will hit the market soon, Taiwan's MediaTek said its 5G modem chip will be shipping next year. The company said it is working with Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, China Mobile and Huawei on technical specifications. 

MediaTek is rolling the chip out ahead of its original schedule, according to DigiTimes. It said its modem will support speeds of 5 gigabits per second.

Earlier this year, MediaTek announced a 5G partnership with China Mobile and said the companies were targeting 2020 for a commercial launch. 

“MediaTek has made considerable progress having invested significant manpower and time in 5G technology and product development,” said MediaTek CTO Kevin Jou during Mobile World Congress 2018. “Joining China Mobile’s 5G Device Forerunner Initiative demonstrates that MediaTek is capable of meeting the requirements of one of the world’s largest operators. MediaTek products will greatly speed up the maturity and penetration of 5G ecosystems so consumers around the world can enjoy the convenience of 5G as soon as possible.”

Now it looks like "as soon as possible" could mean next year. According to a study conducted by Analysys Mason and Recon Analytics, China is slightly ahead of the U.S. in the "race to 5G."

MediaTek has close ties to Huawei and China Mobile, and also to China's ZTE. When the U.S. banned American companies from doing business with ZTE, MediaTek quickly obtained clearance to continue shipping chips to ZTE.

Analysts said MediaTek sells more smartphone chips than any other vendor except for Qualcomm, but the company saw its market share slide last year. 5G could be a major boost for MediaTek if it secures an early lead.

Qualcomm and Intel are both developing 5G modems as well. Qualcomm said its Snapdragon X50 5G modem platform will initially support operation in the 28 GHz millimeter wave band. It uses carrier aggregation, adaptive beamforming and beam tracking, and Qualcomm said it can support mobile 5G in non-line-of-sight conditions.

Intel is developing one 5G chipset to support both millimeter wave bands and sub-6 GHz bands. It said its first commercial 5G modem, expected to ship in commercial customer devices in mid-2019, will support 5G as well as 4G, 3G and 2G.