MediaTek says the chipset, built on a 7-nanometer process, will be the first sub-6GHz mobile 5G system-on-a-chip to support carrier aggregation. This technique, first widely employed with LTE Advanced phones, increases the data rate of the silicon by assigning two frequency blocks (carriers) to a smartphone. MediaTek says the Dimensity chipset can deliver download speeds of up to 4.7 Gbit/s.
Regular readers will notice that the chipset doesn't support millimeter wave (mmWave) bands. This is because mmWave 5G doesn't really exist outside the US yet, and covers very limited areas in US cities. Japan and South Korea are expecting 5G rollouts on mmWave next year, but vendors that want mass adoption of 5G devices in Asia, Europe and the US in 2020 will need to support lowband and midband 5G.
Dimensity is also the first 5G chipset to support dual SIM cards. Dual SIM cards allow the phone to support both personal and business use, or to allow the phone to access a foreign network while keeping a local SIM card onboard. In other words, phones using this chipset will be among the first suited for international business travel.
MediaTek has said that it expects this chipset -- its first 5G smartphone chipset -- initially to be adopted by Chinese smartphone manufacturers.
It has been a busy week for MediaTek on the 5G front. As well as the smartphone chipset, the vendor has also partnered with Intel to supply it with 5G chipsets for PCs, starting in 2021.
Why this matters Qualcomm's initial dominance of the 5G chipset market will be challenged by MediaTek, as well as similar 5G releases from Samsung and Huawei in 2020.
Samsung has signed on top Chinese smartphone company Vivo to use its Exynos 980 5G chipset in phones. The Exynos 980 is expected to be in commercial devices by early 2020.
Huawei, meanwhile, has started to launch its latest 5G smartphones -- the Honor V30 and V30 Pro -- using its Kirin 990 chipset. These phones are due to go on sale in China in December. There's no word yet on an international release date.
At present, Qualcomm still maintains a leading position in 5G smartphone chipsets. At the end of its fiscal 2019 in early November, the chip vendor reported it had 230 5G design wins across over 30 original equipment manufacturers.
But with silicon vendors now heading to market, 2020 will bring the first real competition onto the 5G chipset landscape.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading