The MediaTek M80 is the first modem from the company to support 5G’s mmWave frequencies that provide the highest speeds, like 7.67 Gbps, the maximum theoretical speed for this modem (3.76 upload).

Its predecessor, the MediaTek M70, only supported Sub-6 frequencies, which is the most common type of 5G available in the USA. By nature, Sub-6 5G lends itself to having much broader territorial coverage. Still, mmWave provides much higher peak speeds “in ideal conditions” as it is more sensitive to obstacles between the 5G base station and the smartphone.

Ideally, the network would be intertwined with both frequencies so users would get the best possible coverage at any given time. That’s why it is essential to support both Sub-6 and mmWave 5G networks on the handset. Of course, all 5G modems are compatible with 4G and earlier networks.

Handling mmWave and Sub-6 in the same modem is hardly new, but it used to be too expensive for mid-range and premium smartphones. Things are now changing fast, and it’s an excellent thing for the end-user.

As wireless carriers look for handsets that can support mmWave AND be affordable, MediaTek is seizing an opportunity to grow its market share by providing an alternative modem (and processor platform) to Qualcomm.

mmWave allows any carrier to brag about maximum speeds (like Verizon) while others brag about their coverage (T-Mobile). From now on, everyone wants to compete on both points, and the value/price ratio will define which consumers can afford 5G or not.

MediaTek did really well in 2020 and had design-wins with major OEMs worldwide, including LG, which made two versions of its LG Velvet smartphone, including one powered by MediaTek’s Dimensity 1000 silicon. While working on our Uber HW camera benchmark, I also spotted some Samsung phones with MediaTek chips, like the Samsung A32, even though Samsung produces the powerful high-end Exynos 2100 processor.

It will be interesting to see how far and how fast MediaTek can grow in the 5G category, but there’s no question that the company has the US market in its sights, and so far, it seems poised to make further gains.

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