MediaTek M80 5G modem takes on Qualcomm with mmWave support

JC Torres - Feb 1, 2021, 9:32pm CST
MediaTek M80 5G modem takes on Qualcomm with mmWave support

It’s hard to argue that Qualcomm’s 5G modems dominate the market, not just in phones but also in any computing or networking products that need to support the next-gen network. MediaTek, of course, didn’t take that sitting down and has launched its own line of Dimensity mobile application processors or APs to give phone manufacturers another option, prompting Qualcomm to fire back with 5G-capable mid-range processors in the Snapdragon 6-series and even the 4-series. Now MediaTek is making the next move to strike at one area where Qualcomm used to be unchallenged, support for mmWave 5G.

Not all 5G networks and hardware are created equal. The most common implementation and support aren’t actually the ones that are being promoted by 5G advocates. The Sub-6GHz spectrum, while indeed faster than 4G, doesn’t deliver the entire promise of 5G speeds. For that, you need mmWave or millimeter-wave 5G that can only travel short distances and need more specialized and more expensive equipment to support.

The latter is one of the factors for the slower adoption of mmWave 5G. In addition to fewer networks offering it, there are also fewer devices and chips that support it. Qualcomm took the lead in that area and is pretty much the king of the hill when it comes to handling the faster kind of 5G. MediaTek, however, is now trying to change that.

The MediaTek M80 modem carries support for both Sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G on a single chip, opening the doors for more Android phones to support both kinds of networks. Like the Helio M70 modem before it, the M80 could start out as a standalone chip that phone makers will have to make room for inside their devices. Eventually, MediaTek could integrate it into future Dimensity processors as well.

The availability of the M80 modems is significant not only for smartphones but even for devices like laptops and Chromebooks. Beyond just the new generation of MediaTek-powered Chrome OS devices, the 5G modem could also give Intel-based computers another option for 5G connectivity as they vie for market share against ARM-based, specifically Snapdragon-powered, computers.

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