The two companies are expecting to see the first fruits of their work in early 2021. They're also working with Fibocom to produce M.2 (the format frequently used for SSDs) 5G modules tailored for Intel-based systems.
The partnership isn't surprising when both sides have a vested interest in promoting 5G. While Intel is no longer in the phone modem business, it knows 5G could be crucial to PCs going forward -- and of course, PCs remain central to the company's plans. This ensures that it has a 5G option without having to devote vast resources. For MediaTek, this is more about expanding its ambitions. The company is already invested in 5G for phones, but the alliance gives it a major footprint in the PC world.
There's certainly pressure for both sides to act. Qualcomm has been teasing 5G laptops using its own chips. Although they're not ready for prime time, it might not be long before you can get a Snapdragon-powered machine with cellular data that rivals faster home internet access. If Intel and MediaTek didn't collaborate, they risked ceding ground to a mutual rival.