On November 28, 2018, Realme launched its first selfie-centric smartphone called Realme U1. While its selfie camera got attention, there was one another component hogging the limelight. It was the new Helio P70 SoC from MediaTek. That launch can be defined as the moment of redemption by the Taiwanese fabless semiconductor company. It was a departure from an era when MediaTek name was not even mentioned on the stage. For a good part, MediaTek processors were acknowledged as quad-core, octa-core processors. In some ways, the past year has been a moment of reckoning for MediaTek, as it gears up for a fight against Qualcomm.
Qualcomm is the king of India’s smartphone market, where more than 90 percent of the devices shipped run Android. While MediaTek has competed in the past, it is now becoming a force. It is right now having an ‘Intel Inside’ moment without having to spend on such a marketing. With the new found success, MediaTek is preparing for its biggest assault on Qualcomm yet. The first comes in the form of a new mid-range processor, and second is a 5G processor for the masses.
MediaTek Helio G90T takes on Snapdragon 600 and 700 Series
MediaTek announced the Helio G90 and Helio G90T as gaming-centric SoCs on July 30, 2019. It was a global announcement and the company chose India as the venue. Soon after the launch, Manu Kumar Jain, MD of Xiaomi India, confirmed that the company will be the first to use the new mobile processor. This week, MediaTek confirmed on Weibo, that Redmi Note 8 Pro will be powered by Helio G90T processor. By powering Redmi Note 8 Series, MediaTek is getting inroads into a truckload of potential users.
Xiaomi has sold a record 20 million units of Redmi Note 7 Series around the world. The leaks suggest that Redmi Note 8 series will only be better than its predecessor. The Redmi Note 7 and Redmi Note 7S are powered by Snapdragon 660 while the Redmi Note 7 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 675 processor. With Helio G90T, MediaTek will be stealing an important business away from Qualcomm. The Taiwanese company is not revealing when Helio G90T powered devices will become available in India. However, it confirmed to BGR India that it is working with multiple partners “to design it [Helio G90] as per their product requirements.”
“Our products, specially the Helio P series, have been appreciated not only by our partners, but also by their customers. The P series chipsets cater to a large segment, from affordable to mid-premium,” Anku Jain, Managing Director of MediaTek India, told BGR India.
“In the year 2018, 42.2 percent of smartphones launched in India were powered by MediaTek. At MediaTek, we always believe in providing world-class technology to mass at an affordable price, so it is very important for us to provide the best technology to maximum people,” he added.
Getting Ready for the 5G Race
5G is not just another hype. It is real and is already available in select cities around the world. At almost every region, 5G is currently supported on smartphones powered by Qualcomm. The San Diego-based is not only the leader but also the pioneer. It first launched the Snapdragon X50 modem as the world’s first 5G modem for mobile devices. At MWC 2019, it launched the Snapdragon X55 to break the speed records set by X50. Qualcomm has competition, but they are nowhere close to it in terms of immediate deployment.
Qualcomm’s rivals in the space include Samsung, MediaTek, Intel and Huawei. Huawei has already confirmed that its Balong 5000 5G modem will be limited to its own and Honor-branded smartphones. Samsung is yet to share its plans while Intel has bowed out of the industry. Intel’s exit gives MediaTek a real opportunity to shine and it does not plan to let it go. It has already announced Helio M70 as its first 5G modem for smart devices. It plans to ship the modem to OEM partners at the end of this year. First devices powered by Helio M70 is expected to arrive during the first quarter of 2020.
“Intel exiting the 5G mobile modem business did create an opportunity for the company but it also led to the tough competition in terms of technology, price and product development. It gave us the impetus to accelerate,” Jain explained.
Making 5G affordable and accessible
The big challenge with 5G, like any other new technology, is the huge cost of entry. The first 5G-powered smartphones in the market cost north of $1,000 (over Rs 80,000). The 5G mobile connectivity itself is available only in limited regions, meaning you will be stuck at 4G for most part. However, MediaTek’s entry might make even 5G smartphones more affordable in the market. The Helio M70 might not offer the same download speed like its Snapdragon counterpart but it will be capable of enabling 1Gbps connection.
“It will take some time as there are only a handful of countries in the world which are ready to adopt 5G technology,” Jain said. “It will take time for other markets to mature and develop infrastructure for 5G services. With the 5G ready infrastructure telcos and OEMs will launch their products and services which will lead to the cost effectiveness of components as well.”