We are still in the early days of 5G, but if you take a quick look around the smartphone world, it is clear Qualcomm has got a start when compared to other chipmakers. Almost every 5G phone on the market today is powered by a Qualcomm modem, and while Qualcomm was recently beaten to break antitrust laws, with the next high-end mobile chip, MediaTek could finally deliver some cramped competition in the 5G room.
Although the chip itself does not have an official name, MediaTek claims that its upcoming SoC (system-on-a-chip AKA processor) is "the world's first fully integrated 7 nanometer 5G SoC" and with it, the company hopes to reduce the price of future 5G smartphones and mobile devices. It's a tempting idea, for anyone who has looked at the starting price of phones, like the $ 1
And in the case of 5G performance, MediaTek boasts that its chip can beat sustained download speeds of 4.2 Gbps and upload speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps. However, there is an important warning about MediaTek's chip, as the integrated modem only supports 5G on the sub-6GHz and 2.5GHz bands. This means that for carriers such as AT & T and especially Verizon (which uses exclusively mmWave frequencies on the 5G network), the MediaTek chip is not really an option to deliver optimum data rates, 5G modems and their antennas often have to be set for a specific set of radio frequencies.
But it may be good because there are a few other operators planning to use either the sub-6 GHz or the 2.5 GHz spectrum when they light up their 5G networks later this year: T-Mobile and Sprint. This gives MediaTek a good position to compete with Qualcomm for delivering 5G chips for future T-Mobile and Sprint phones, especially if T-Mobile and Sprint's scheduled merger is approved. Finally, it will ultimately fall on the phone manufacturers instead of end users to choose which chip best suits their devices. At least it's a choice.
Anyway, with just a handful of chip makers around the world having the ability to make 5G-ready chips and SoCs, it's nice to know that there can be at least one alternative to all of the Qualcomm-powered 5G phones coming soon. That said, it is relatively relative soon, even though MediaTek does not expect any consumer-ready devices with its new 5G Soc to be available before the 1st quarter of 2020.