Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Intel, MediaTek Prep a 5G Modem 

Asia remains the locus for 5G development and deployment, with wireless carriers deploying based stations by the hundreds of thousands and the number of 5G networks deployed around the world approaching 100, according to wireless industry estimates.

Connecting devices to those high-bandwidth, low-latency networks is the focus of a partnership between Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) and Taiwan’s MediaTek Inc. (TPE: 2454), which this week announced advances in 5G modem development that would initially be used to attach x86-based PCs to the next-generation wireless network.

The 5G partners said Thursday (Aug. 6) they have certified a 5G modem data card by completing 5G “standalone” calls during testing. Standalone mode refers to using 5G cells for both signaling and data transfer. The test used the 5G packet architecture rather than relying on existing 4G infrastructure that allows 5G to be deployed on LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks.

The partners said Intel also advanced system integration of the MediaTek modem card along with validation and platform development.

MediaTek President Joe Chen said the partnership with Intel would allow it to enter the laptop market via its 5G modem technology. PCs are among the growing list of devices expected to benefit from 5G connectivity, up to and including running HPC applications on cloud-connected client devices.

Intel said customer sampling of the 5G modem would commence later in this quarter. The first laptops incorporating new 5G modem technology are expected to hit the market early next year.

The 5G modem effort builds on earlier 4G/LTE collaboration between Intel and MediaTek, Hsinchu, Taiwan.

MediaTek said its T700 5G modem supports standalone as well as non-standalone sub-6 GHz 5G network architectures.

Meanwhile, its chipset family dubbed Dimensity targets the nascent 5G smartphone market. The most advanced version was released in May.

MediaTek competes with 5G equipment leader Huawei Technologies and its HiSilcon chip unit. According to Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategies, Huawei/HiSilicon’s modem lineup includes both modem and RF ICs.

Moorhead described MediaTek as traditionally “more of a lower-priced follower-challenger than a leader in cellular modems.” Still, the industry analyst noted that the Taiwanese vendor announced its mobile-ready modem around the same time as market leaders Huawei and Intel.

Intel reentered the cellular market as 4G deployments ramped up with its acquisition of Infineon’s wireless chip unit a decade ago. Moorhead noted the chipmaker has made little progress in the wireless sector, likely prompting its 5G partnership with MediaTek.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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