5G and Beyond

Intel Partners With MediaTek for 5G PC Chips

Intel and MediaTek have formed a partnership under which they will develop silicon and 5G modems that power a new generation of PCs that support the next-gen mobile technology. Chips for the combined effort are expected to be available early in 2021.

Intel said it would define the specifications for 5G PCs, and MediaTek will develop the 5G modem for those devices. "Dell and HP are expected to be among the first OEMs to deliver laptops enabled with Intel and MediaTek's 5G solution," Intel said in the announcement.

The PC-focused partnership with Intel forms as MediaTek prepares to launch its Helio M70 5G system-on-a-chip (SoC) for smartphones early next year. MediaTek is expected to launch in the Chinese market first.

MediaTek will use the M70 as the basis for its 5G PC modem. The modem will only support sub-6GHz frequencies for 5G, not the high-band millimeter-wave frequencies, which have been prevalent in early US 5G rollouts.

Qualcomm, meanwhile, partnered with Lenovo to introduce its Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx 5G compute platform in late May this year. "Consumers can expect more to come from Lenovo and Qualcomm in early 2020," the chipmaker says.

Why this matters
This deal gives Intel a 5G partner for its PC business. The deal is also poised to expand the global presence for MediaTek's 5G modems.

Intel was supposed to be a significant player in the 5G cellular modem business. It was originally working to supply Apple with 5G modems. The company was expecting to have its XMM 8160 5G modem out in the first half of 2020.

The 5G cellular modem game, however, didn't pan out for Intel.

In fact, Intel bowed out of the 5G smartphone business in mid-April this year, after Qualcomm signed a multi-year deal to supply 5G modems to Apple. The iPhone vendor then bought Intel's cellular modem business for $1 billion in July to develop its own 5G modems over time. Apple is expected to introduce its first 5G modem in 2022 or 2023.

Qualcomm has instead dominated the early cellular 5G modem scene, although this will likely change with more competition from Samsung, Huawei, and MediaTek in 2020.

With the MediaTek deal, Intel now has a chance to carve out its own niche for 5G PC chips.

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— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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