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Competition heats up between two duelling chip vendors

Posted: 05 Mar 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MediaTek  Qualcomm  smartphone 

The battle between the two biggest names in the mobile chip industry, MediaTek and Qualcomm, has lingered even after the culmination of the Mobile World Congress. The wider struggle that is reflected by Asian and Western multinationals haggling the global supply chain has made it even more compelling.

The MediaTek v Qualcomm scenario is reminiscent of Ridley Scott's impressive first feature film as a director. The Duellists recounted the story of a couple of French Napoleonic cavalrymen who used different weapons. After 20 years of incessant fighting neither of them could quite recall why they started duelling in the first place. The appeal of the film is the way one of the characters reluctantly yet steadfastly protects his honour under the threat of a fierce, determined and persistent rival.

Qualcomm is the dominant player for smartphones that ship into North America and Europe while MediaTek is currently best known for being the leading player in the Chinese market. Now there are signs that MediaTek seems to have reached the maximum market share that they can achieve in China and will be looking to go after Qualcomm in other markets.

MediaTek's strategy seems to be focused more on western markets and on the fastest growing tier of the smartphone market, which the Taiwanese chipmaker hopes will help it chip away at the dominance of the company's US rival Qualcomm.

Currently ranked second to Qualcomm in the mobile phone market MediaTek unveiled a series of next generation processors able to use 4G, or LTE, networks at last week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

At present smartphone revenues at the Taiwanese group are roughly a fifth of those of its US rival and although MediaTek has tended to supply chips mainly to Asian handset makers such as fast growing Lenovo, LG Electronics, ZTE, Coolpad and Xiaomi the company is clearly casting its net at western markets and even showed its intent by opening an office in San Diego, California, that will employ 150 people. San Diego happens to host the Qualcomm's HQ.

MediaTek sees its way forward in western markets by making smartphones more affordable with the introduction of the company's range of technologically advanced chips that tend to be cheaper than those offered by Qualcomm.

4G seems to be a major strategic objective for MediTek but the company also seems keen on using innovations to make smartphone technologies more accessible to wider audiences.

Estimates suggest that Qualcomm currently dominates the LTE modem market with over 90 per cent market share that may encourage some OEMs to seek a healthy competitor to provide an alternative source. There is little doubt MediaTek is aiming for a slice of that rather tasty American pie.

At MWC 2014 Qualcomm added the Snapdragon 610 and 615 chipsets to the Snapdragon 600 tier for high-end mobile computing devices. The Snapdragon 615 chipset claims to be the mobile industry's first commercially announced octa-core solution with integrated LTE and 64bit capabilities, while the 610 chipset supports LTE and 64bit capabilities using quad-core processing.

Both new chipsets integrate Qualcomm Technologies 3rd Generation LTE modem, supporting Category 4 data rates for new requirements such as LTE-Broadcast and LTE Dual SIM Dual Active (DSDA). The 610 and 615 chipsets are designed to work with Qualcomm Technologies RF360 Front End solution, enabling OEMs to ship a single 5mode global LTE SKU across all major bands and modes worldwide a requirement for this highly competitive handset tier. In addition to LTE support, both chipsets also integrate critical 3G technologies, including HSPA+ (up to 42Mbit/s), CDMA, and TD-SCDMA.

The 615, 610 and 410 chipsets also support ARMv8, the latest instruction set for ARM compatible devices. The ARMv8 architecture claims to offer the most power-efficient implementation while maintaining compatibility with existing 32bit software.

MediaTek also chose MWC 2014 to reveal a 64bit octa-core LTE SOC. The MT6752 deploys eight 2.0GHz ARM Cortex 53 CPUs and a Mali-T760 GPU the next-level 64bit mobile computing and LTE. The solution aims to give consumers in the Super-mid market high performing smartphones at an affordable price.

The MT6752 platform supports low-power, 1080p, 30fps video playback supporting the emerging video codec standard H.265 and legacy H.264 and 1080p, 30fps H.264 video recording.

"We launched world's first true octa-core solution in November 2013 and now we continue to extend our lead to deliver on our vision to make the world a more inclusive place, said Jeffrey Ju, General Manager of the MediaTek Smartphone Business Unit.

The MT6752 platform will be commercially available early Q3 of 2014, with a complete reference design and mass production in Q4.


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