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MediaTek announces satellite chip that can be used with any 4G/5G smartphone

IoT-NTN chip will arrive first, followed by the NR-NTN chip in the coming years.
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Published onFebruary 24, 2023

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TL;DR
  • MediaTek revealed it’s working on IoT-NTN and NR-NTN satellite chips.
  • Both chips will be based on an open standard rather than a proprietary solution.
  • The chips will be standalone offerings that can be added to any 4G or 5G device.

At MWC 2023, chip manufacturer MediaTek will be showing off a number of products. Among these products will be new chips that enable two-way satellite communication on smartphones.

MediaTek has announced that it is working on two new chipsets that will enable satellite connectivity on smartphones and other devices. One chip will target IoT-non-terrestrial network (IoT-NTN) technology and the other will be for new radio-NTN (NR-NTN).

The IoT-NTN chip will be the first out of the gate since satellite networks don’t support NR-NTN at mass scale yet. MediaTek says the initial wave of smartphones using this technology, including the Motorola Defy 2 and CAT S75, will be designed for two-way satellite messaging services. This makes sense as IoT-NTN uses low data rate connections, which are best for simple things like messaging.

The company plans to release its NR-NTN chips sometime after satellite networks build more capacity for NR-NTN connections in the coming years. This type of connection offers higher data rates, making it more appropriate for supporting video calls and other applications.

More importantly, however, MediaTek mentioned that its chips are based on the 3GPP R17 NTN open standard rather than a proprietary solution. These chips are standalone products that don’t require a phone to have a MediaTek CPU. As a result, the chips can be added to any capable 4G or 5G phone.

“Two-way satellite communications on smartphones and other devices will usher us into a new era of connectivity and open up new possibilities across many verticals,” said JC Hsu, corporate VP and GM of MediaTek’s wireless communications branch. “Our standalone MT6825 chipsets, which are based on the 3GPP NTN open standard, can be integrated into any flagship smartphone to deliver a seamless satellite connectivity experience.”

In addition to supporting the open standard, it appears the chips will have a few other features. This includes the ability to connect to Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) constellations, the ability to automatically receive messages from satellites, and low power consumption to save on battery life.

MWC 2023 is being held in Barcelona, Spain, starting on February 27 and ending on March 2.