MediaTek adds momentum to 5G mid-tier with Dimensity 800 launch

After launching its assault on the premium market in November, MediaTek has unveiled its Dimensity 800 Series 5G chipset for mid-tier devices.

The 5G euphoria is of course very exciting, or at least we have been told to be enthralled, but in reality, it means next to nothing without the devices to connect the data-frenzied consumer to the freakishly-fast digital super-highway. MediaTek’s announcement is a step in the right direction.

Announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the Dimensity 800 Series 5G chipset is MediaTek’s answer to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765; a product for mid-tier smartphones, the segment critical to fuelling mass market adoption in the 5G world.

“MediaTek already launched its flagship 5G smartphone solution, the Dimensity 1000, and with the 800 series 5G chipset family, we are bringing 5G to the mid-tier and mass market,” said TL Lee, head of MediaTek’s wireless business unit.

“Everyone should have access to great technology. The Dimensity 800 Series will power the New Premium segment for 5G, bringing consumers flagship smartphone features and performance at midrange price points.”

While most people in the developed markets would turn their nose up at the prospect of buying a mid-tier smartphone, such are the eye-watering prices of today’s 5G-compatible smartphones, few would consider the small loan which would be needed to purchase one. 5G compatible, mid-tier devices will be crucially important in fuelling momentum towards mass-market adoption of 5G smartphones.

The chipset supports two carrier aggregation for, what MediaTek claims offers, 30% wider high-speed layer coverage and improved handover, as well as both stand alone and non-standalone sub-6 GHz connectivity. Four big Arm Cortex-A76 cores operating up to 2 GHz, have been paired with four power-efficient Arm Cortex-A55 cores operating at up to 2 GHz to improve performance for intensive applications such as mobile gaming.

While this chipset might not have the horsepower of the flagship Dimensity 1000 Series, it is not supposed to. This is a product which is designed to accelerate the launch of devices in the mid-tier market, a critical area to drive through widespread adoption of 5G data connectivity.

Intel reduced to using MediaTek modems for 5G PCs

Remember when Intel was Apple’s 5G secret weapon to break Qualcomm’s modem stranglehold? Well, now not so much.

It turns out Intel can’t even cobble together a modem for its own products and has been reduced to calling on the help of MediaTek to bring 5G to PCs containing its chips. The resulting effort is, of course, being positioned as ‘a 5G solution’, which long-time Intel partners Dell and HP will be dutifully whacking into some of their laptops when it becomes available.

“5G is poised to unleash a new level of computing and connectivity that will transform the way we interact with the world,” proclaimed Gregory Bryant, GM of Intel’s Client Computing Group. “This partnership with MediaTek brings together industry leaders with deep engineering, system integration and connectivity expertise to deliver 5G experiences on the next generation of the world’s best PCs.”

Note the uncharacteristic absence of superlatives in that otherwise by-the-book canned quote. That’s because everyone knows Qualcomm is the 5G modem leader, even Apple. Relations between Qualcomm and intel are presumably strained since the latter tried to help Apple strong-arm the former and as a result Intel partners get an inferior modem in their 5G solutions.

“Our 5G modem for PCs, developed in partnership with Intel, is integral to making 5G accessible and available across home and mobile platforms,” said MediaTek President Joe Chen. “5G will usher in the next era of PC experiences, and working with Intel, an industry leader in computing, highlights MediaTek’s expertise in designing 5G technology for global markets.”

Does it really though, Joe? Anyway, the extent to which there will be any demand for laptops with built-in 5G built in remains to be seen. With tethering now so easy, it’s hard to see why anyone would pay a premium for any kind of embedded modem in their lappy, let alone a 5G one. But it would have looked bad for Intel to not even give it a go, and that’s what this announcement seems to be about, as much as anything else.

Qualcomm dominates smartphone applications processor market

The latest smartphone component data from Strategy Analytics reveals that, despite its legal challenges, Qualcomm remains dominant in the smartphone chip market.

Applications processors are essentially the CPUs of a smartphone and are represented at Qualcomm by the Snapdragon brand. Qualcomm’s main competitor in this area is Chinese chip maker Mediatek, but after a strong year for the latter in 2016, Qualcomm seems to be pulling away again.

“After a successful 2016, Qualcomm continued its momentum and gained market share with the help of a strengthened portfolio across the board from flagship to mid-range,” said Sravan Kundojjala of SA. “After missing the initial 14 nm FinFET AP wave, Qualcomm made sure it is one of the first companies with a commercial 10 nm smartphone AP.

“Qualcomm’s semi-custom 10 nm flagship 64-bit AP Snapdragon 835, which integrates a gigabit-class LTE modem, has seen greater success than its predecessor Snapdragon 820 / 821. Strategy Analytics believes that Qualcomm is poised for further share gains through 2017 with its strengthened Snapdragon 600-series of APs.”

“MediaTek hit a rough patch in 1H 2017, after registering a robust growth in 2016,” said SA’s Stuart Robinson. “MediaTek’s weak portfolio coupled with increased competition from Qualcomm contributed to its share losses in 1H 2017. MediaTek’s flagship Helio X series has not seen much success so far while the mid-range Helio P series of chips performed strongly.

“Understandably, MediaTek is set to de-emphasis Helio X in favor of Helio P to optimize its investment and to recover market share in 2H 2017. Strategy Analytics believes that MediaTek’s recovery will take time as its modem technology is still generations behind market leader Qualcomm.”

Here’s the SA market 1H 2017 applications processor chart. Apple makes its own APs, as many other vendors like Samsung and Huawei often do too, so Qualcomm has done well to keep such a lead. The legal disputes faced by Qualcomm are largely focused more on its modems, but the AP side of things could still be adversely affected if thing go against it.

SA AP chart