MediaTek Announces 5G SoC With Cortex-A77 For Budget Next-Gen Smartphones

mediatek 5g soc
The first generation of 5G smartphones has already landed, but they are full of compromises (i.e. needing separate chips for the SoC and the 5G modem). MediaTek, a Taiwanese-based chip company whose SoCs typically end up in budget smartphones, has announced the first SoC with an integrated 5G modem.

MediaTek is simply calling it the “5G SoC” and it fully integrates the company's Helio M70 5G modem. According to the company, this is a multi-mode 5G modem that is capable of supporting 5G along with legacy 4G, 3G, and 2G networks. MediaTek says that the M70 is capable of supporting 5G NR (sub-6GHz), 2x carrier aggregation along with both standalone and non-standalone 5G networks.

We should mention, however, that the M70 doesn't have any provisions for mmWave 5G networks at this time. U.S. wireless carriers have embraced mmWave for their initial rollouts of 5G, but its range and penetration are limited at best. But if you are within range, mmWave is capable of delivering some spectacular speeds.

Speaking of wireless speeds, MediaTek says that the M70 can deliver peak download speeds of 4.7Gbps and upload speeds of 2.5Gbps. However, it's very unlikely that we'll see those kinds of speeds this early on in the 5G game.

Of course, there's more to the 7nm 5G SoC than just... 5G. MediaTek will leverage the newly announced Cortex-A77 CPU and Mali-G77 GPU designs with its new SoC. Given the performance advances that Arm is touting with these new architectures, we should see some nice generational improvements in performance for devices at the lower-end of the pricing spectrum. Alongside the new CPU and GPU will be MediaTek's third-generation AI chipset.

mediatek 5g soc
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"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. 

On the one the one hand, MediaTek has the advantage over the dominant force in modem sector, Qualcomm, with its fully-integrated 5G solution. Qualcomm's current Snapdragon X50 is a standalone 5G modem and requires a separate modem for 4G/3G/2G functionality (found inside the accompanying Snapdragon 855 SoC). On the other hand, the Snapdragon X50 supports mmWave.

Qualcomm does, however, have the Snapdragon X55 in the pipeline which is a multi-mode chip, albeit still a standalone solution. Qualcomm says that its first integrated 5G Snapdragon SoC will arrive in 2020. 

According to MediaTek, its 5G SoC will begin shipping to partner during the third quarter, and we should begin seeing the first products with the chipset in early 2020.