What you need to know

  • MediaTek finally has a new flagship SoC.
  • It'll have the latest flagship processor and graphics from ARM.
  • It also offers 5G with full support for the sub-6GHz standard which T-Mobile and Sprint are using in their 5G networks.

The first wave of 5G phones have launched at a considerable premium over their LTE counterparts, mainly due to the incredible cost of developing the chipsets and technology behind the new standard.

Mediatek is working hard to ensure that more affordable flagships aren't left behind, with the company's new 7nm integrated system-on-chip (SoC) designed to offer an alternative for lower-cost devices. It's made with ARM's recently announced Cortex-A77 CPU and Mali-G77 GPU architectures, with Mediatek's own AI processing unit on top.

The SoC also features the Heliio M70 5G modem, which supports the sub-6GHz 5G standards and theoretical maximum download speeds of 4.7 Gbps and upload speeds up to 2.5 Gbps. The SoC supports 4K video encoding/decoding at 60 frames per second, and up to 80MP cameras (think of it as four 20MP cameras, rather than a single 80MP camera).

What is 5G? Everything you need to know about the new standard

The modem on MediaTek's new SoC also supports standalone and non-standalone network architectures and it can also connect to anything from 2G to 4G networks whenever 5G isn't available. Requiring only one chipset is in stark contrast with Qualcomm's current X50 modem – which is found in 5G devices like the Galaxy S10 5G – and can only connect to 5G networks meaning the phone needs a separate LTE modem. MediaTek's new chipset is similar to the Qualcomm X55 modem which also has multimode support, can connect to all networks from 2G to 5G and will launch in phones later this year.

Who is this new SoC for? Talking to MediaTek at a briefing ahead of the launch of the SoC, the company confirmed this is a push towards powering flagship devices. Considering carriers such as T-Mobile and Sprint are only using the sub-6GHz standard in their 5G networks next year, this type of chipset would appeal to devices that are set to run on the T-Mobile/Sprint networks only.

MediaTek is well known for offering an alternative to Qualcomm chipsets for lower priced devices, and the new 5G SoC should mean that 5G devices don't all require a significant premium. Russ Mestechkin, MediaTek's Senior Director for Sales and Business Development in the US and LATAM, said the new chipset is "flagship quality. You could build a best-in-class phone with it."

The new chipset will be available for commercial partners later this year, with the first phones powered by it launching earlier next year. Considering the sub-6GHz is being heavily favored by T-Mobile and Sprint – versus the current mmWave standard that AT&T and Verizon are rolling out before adopting sub-6GHz – this chipset might be the solution to bring affordable 5G flagships to those carriers.