Intel has just announced a partnership with MediaTek. Together, the companies are planning to develop 5G modem solutions for laptops. Interestingly, the companies have a much larger plan than mere chips that allow connectivity to the fast emerging and deploying 5G cellular network connectivity, indicated the announcement.
Despite the rather ambitious timelines set by the companies, MediaTek’s direct competitor, Qualcomm could be the one to commercially launch a laptop that manages to establish a reliable high-speed connection to 5G mobile internet.
Intel may have sold off its 5G modem business or segment to Apple this year, but it seems the company is very much in the business of developing modems and solutions that enable 5G connectivity in portable computing machines. The company made a rather surprising announcement today that is bound to have a deep impact.
Intel announced a partnership with Taiwan-based semiconductor company MediaTek for the “development, certification and support of 5G modem solutions” for laptops.
Intel and MediaTek Further Business Proposition Beyond Mobiles, Desktops, and Smartphones:
The announcement is quite interesting primarily because it entails much larger responsibilities than just making chips or modems that can establish a sustained connection with a cellular tower offering 5G connectivity. The companies are clearly planning to conceptualize, design, develop and deploy custom solutions for the next-gen 5G connectivity.
— Patently Apple (@PatentlyApple) November 25, 2019
Incidentally, MediaTek is rising fast. It is keenly interested in moving beyond the affordable and budget segment where there’s a lot of intense competition. To meet its goal, Intel and MediaTek are working with Fibocom on the development of M.2 modules designed to work with Intel client platforms.
Formerly known as the Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF), this expansion slot meant for portable computers, laptops and notebooks is similar in features to the PCIe slots on desktops. With significant freedom in form-factor M.2 allows different module widths and lengths, making it more versatile and potent than mSATA.
Additionally, MediaTek today is also launching its Dimensity line of 5G systems on a chip (SoCs). Although yet to be confirmed by MediaTek, the Dimensity line 5G modems are multi-mode, meaning that a single modem supports everything from 2G to 5G. On the other hand, Qualcomm’s current 5G modems reportedly support only 5G, and 5G capable devices apparently require another modem chip for 4G and below.
Intel-Based Laptops With 5G Modems Inside To Launch In Two Years?
Needless to add, 5G is still an emerging standard, and several companies including Huawei, Qualcomm, Nokia, and others, are still experimenting with networking hardware. Hence there’s still time to find the right combination of hardware and technologies that can achieve and maintain a strong and reliable wireless connection with a 5G cellular network.
Moreover, having sold its mobile 5G modem business to Apple, Intel is now focusing on larger laptops. Interestingly, laptops being a lot larger than smartphones, Intel has a much larger area to develop bigger modems.
— Streym.com (@StreymUK) November 25, 2019
Intel and MediaTek expect to come up with a commercially viable product by 2021. In the two years’ time, Intel will create the specifications, and MediaTek will make the modems. Intel will then validate the hardware and even promote to OEM partners.
Based on the timeline, it is amply clear that Qualcomm would beat MediaTek to market. Qualcomm already showed off the Project Limitless laptop in partnership with Lenovo at the Computex conference in May.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon x55 5G modem paired with Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx processor has been a proven solution for 5G connectivity.
Although Qualcomm has the products, 5G standards aren’t finalized yet. Moreover, cellular technology still needs to be optimized for reliable connectivity within office buildings and homes and not just out on the street. Hence it will be interesting to see how well Intel and MediaTek’s solutions work.