MediaTek challenges Qualcomm with premium 5G chip

(Image credit: MediaTek) (Image credit: MediaTek)

MediaTek has announced a 5G processor at Computex in Taiwan that it hopes will allow it to challenge Qualcomm’s supremacy in the premium smartphone market.

The new 7nm System-on-a-Chip (SoC) is based on Arm’s Cortex-A77 CPU and Mali-G77 GPU designs and includes MediaTek’s own 5G modem and AI processing unit (APU) technology.

It claims to give smartphones a significant performance boost, with theoretical support for 4.7Gbps download and 2.5Gbps speeds.

MediaTek 5G

The chip supports Standalone (SA) and Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G infrastructure, but crucially, it only supports sub-6GHz spectrum.

While the first European 5G networks, including those in the UK, will use these frequencies, Verizon and AT&T are among those using much higher millimetre-wave (mmWave) bandwidth. This could limit its appeal in some markets.

However, MediaTek is confident that the platform will gain traction and expects the first commercial devices to be powered by the chip in the first quarter of 2020.

“Everything about this chip is designed for the first wave of flagship 5G devices. The leading-edge technology in this chipset makes it the most powerful 5G SoC announced to date and puts MediaTek at the forefront of 5G SoC design,” said MediaTek President Joe Chen. “MediaTek will power rollouts of 5G premium level devices.”

Qualcomm technology – whether its modems or processors - power the overwhelming majority of flagship smartphones, while Samsung and Huawei are working on their own components. This has left MediaTek to compete for business in the mid-range segments of the smartphone market and for other areas of electronics, such as connected speakers.

It was revealed during the now-concluded legal battle between Apple and Qualcomm that the former had held discussions with MediaTek over a possible modem supply but these did not amount to anything.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.