MediaTek has finally revealed its first mmWave-compatible 5G modem. Though the technology is most popular here in the 'States (where it's also kinda useless), carriers continue to champion its incredible speeds while conveniently overlooking its many limitations. But soon, you'll be able to enjoy losing that super-fast connection when you cross the street on a MediaTek phone, too.

I poke fun, but the advantages of mmWave really are overstated, especially in this pandemic era. One of the few genuine benefits is in places like massive auditoriums or stadiums where low-band congestion can be an issue due to the sheer volume of phones. The added frequencies, limited range, and high directionality are outright bonuses there, even if it still won't help you much at home.

The new M80 modem supports the aforementioned mmWave 5G, and it's also compatible with both standalone and non-standalone 5G, sports peak downlink rates of 7.67Gbps and uplink of 3.76Gbps, as well as now-expected technologies like dual 5G SIM, Dual 5G NSA and SA, DSS, and dual VoNR, plus the expected sub-6 connectivity for those more useful avenues of 5G. It also supports carrier aggregation on 5G, including mixed duplex, though support does vary based on frequency: sub-6 5G is "more than two" while mmWave can do up to 8CC. On LTE, you can expect Cat-19 speeds on download, and up to 5CC.

There are also abstractly described power-saving features like MediaTek's Ultra Save, Dynamic Bandwidth Part, and Connected Mode DRX, all claiming their own individual improvements based on environment and use.

This is a substantial step up from the M70 modem, which was built into MediaTek's first integrated 5G chipset (also a world's first) back in 2019, and merely supported sub-6 5G standards at slower max speeds.

On paper, this isn't quite up to the standards of Qualcomm's latest X60 modem, and even last year's X55 beats it in some regards, like LTE speeds. MediaTek also hasn't provided us with quite the level of detail that Qualcomm usually does in its announcements, which doesn't do the company any benefits. We should also point out: Qualcomm also provides an end-to-end 5G solution for customers, including things like antenna design, RF transceivers, and other controllers, which MediaTek hasn't mentioned, and that difference could be important for customers (i.e., smartphone makers).

Still, mmWave is a hurdle for MediaTek to clear if it wants to enter the premium segment in the US and try to topple our Qualcomm monopoly. Based on specs, the M80 is a contender and could do well paired with the right chipset.

This is the part where I'd say "but," and there are a few worth mentioning. For one, its future in phones is a little nebulous. At a launch event earlier this year, the company told us the product was primarily destined for things like hotspots, IoT, and external 5G modems, though we were explicitly told that phones were also on the table. That may sound a little odd, but if I had to guess, I think we'll see an M80-derived modem land in a future chipset. And that's the other catch: MediaTek tells us it isn't meant to be paired with its current chipset lineup, so we'll have a wait ahead of us before it lands in any consumer-facing hardware. The chip also won't be sampled until an undefined time "later this year."

Press Release

MediaTek Unveils New M80 5G Modem with Support for mmWave and Sub-6 GHz 5G Networks
New modem supports SA and NSA architectures, with a peak speed of 7.67 Gbps

MediaTek Inc.
Feb 01, 2021, 18:00 ET

HSINCHU, Taiwan, Feb. 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- MediaTek today announced its new M80 5G modem which combines mmWave and sub-6 GHz 5G technologies onto a single chip. The M80 supports ultra-fast speeds on both non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA) architectures, with a peak rate of 7.67 Gbps in the downlink and 3.76 Gbps in the uplink. The M80 also supports dual 5G SIM, dual 5G NSA and SA networks, and dual Voice over New Radio (VoNR) for more reliable connectivity.

MediaTek's new M80 5G modem that combines mmWave and sub-6 GHz 5G technologies onto a single chip
"As 5G rollouts accelerate, mmWave is becoming increasingly important, especially in the U.S. MediaTek's new 5G modem integrates support for both sub-6 GHz and mmWave networks to address this opportunity and give device makers more flexibility," said JC Hsu, Corporate Vice President and General Manager of MediaTek's Wireless Communications Business Unit. "To advance users' 5G experiences, the new modem supports the latest global cellular standards and specifications and it packs MediaTek's signature power savings technologies along with ultra-fast speeds."

MediaTek's 5G modems are ideal for a range of devices, including smartphones, PCs, Mi-Fi hotspots, broadband customer premise equipment (CPE), industrial IoT applications and more. MediaTek's first generation 5G modem, the M70, is built into MediaTek's Dimensity series of powerful and power-efficient chipsets for 5G smartphones. The company's 5G portfolio also includes the MediaTek T700, which will power 5G PCs set to hit the market in 2021, along with MediaTek's T750 chipset for 5G fixed wireless access routers (FWA) and mobile hotspot devices.

The M80 has been tested against industry standards and is expected to sample with customers later in 2021. It offers operators around the world support for a full range of radio access technologies:

  • 3GPP Release 16 standard
  • Sub-6 GHz and mmWave dual connectivity and carrier aggregation
  • 5G NR (FR1) with more than two carrier aggregation
  • 5G mmWave (FR2) up to 8CC
  • 5G carrier aggregation with Mixed Duplex (TDD + FDD)
  • Dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) ready

The M80 integrates MediaTek's 5G UltraSave technologies which improve on the single-chip design to provide another layer of extensive power-saving enhancements. MediaTek's UltraSave Network Environment Detection and UltraSave OTA Content Awareness technologies dynamically adjust power configuration and operating frequency based on the network environment. The M80 also integrates MediaTek's Dynamic Bandwidth Part (BWP) technology which is designed to optimize bandwidth use to accommodate light or heavy data throughput requests. Additionally, with the M80's Connected Mode DRX (C-DRX) technology the modem will regularly remain powered in connected standby even when there is no data activity.

MediaTek works closely with operators and partners around the world to bring consumers faster and more reliable 5G experiences. As a result, company's 5G technology has been validated by operators in more than 100 markets. MediaTek is also a founding member of the OpenRF Association, which was founded to help to speed up time-to-market for 5G device manufacturers with interoperable 5G RF Front-End (RFFE) solutions.

To learn more about MediaTek's 5G portfolio, please visit: https://i.mediatek.com/mediatek-5g.

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About MediaTek Inc.

MediaTek Incorporated (TWSE: 2454) is a global fabless semiconductor company that enables nearly 2 billion connected devices a year. We are a market leader in developing innovative systems-on-chip (SoC) for mobile device, home entertainment, connectivity and IoT products. Our dedication to innovation has positioned us as a driving market force in several key technology areas, including highly power-efficient mobile technologies, automotive solutions and a broad range of advanced multimedia products such as smartphones, tablets, digital televisions, 5G, Voice Assistant Devices (VAD) and wearables. MediaTek empowers and inspires people to expand their horizons and achieve their goals through smart technology, more easily and efficiently than ever before. We work with the brands you love to make great technology accessible to everyone, and it drives everything we do. Visit www.mediatek.com for more information.