We knew how this movie would end. The game is over for Western chip companies--except for the global mobile chip industry's leader, Qualcomm.
Another reason for paying attention to China’s handset vendors--including the many local design houses--is that they hold the key to
the global market beyond China, in such countries like India, Africa and
South East Asia.
Spreadtrum’s plan to sell into such markets
outside China is comprehensive and elaborate. The company follows a few
different routes. First, Spreadtrum directly works with design companies
in Shanghai and Shenzhen, who will sell their handsets to branded
handset vendors like India’s leader, Micromax. (It’s important to note
that Spreadtrum also invested in this popular Indian handset vendor.)
Spreadtrum plays an active role in “match-making,” said Li, between
local branded handset vendors and local design houses.
getting design wins in global handsets such as those by Samsung also
helps get Spreadtrum’s chips into handsets sold in developing countries
outside China, he added. Spreadtrum’s baseband chip last fall got a
design win from Samsung Electronics. Spreadtrum is supplying a 40nm 2.5G
baseband, the SC6530, to power Samsung E1282 and E1263 Trios mobile
In Africa, Li noted, “We also work very closely with
Orange, the French operator,” who has a big presence there. Noting
Spreadtrum’s close relationship with Orange, Li said, “They understand
the needs of the African market, and we offer chipsets that pass their
As EE Times
previously reported, the availability of popular IP cores including ARM,
Imagination and CEVA, foundry services based on cutting-edge process
nodes at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. or others, and various
design tools and design services, have created an unprecedented level
playing field, contributing to the emergence of countless fabless
companies in China over the past several years.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every Chinese fabless has been winning this war.
reality is that many fabless companies, especially apps processors in
China, plagued with me-too products, are struggling to find
Among them, Spreadtrum in China is deemed an exception to the rule. Spreadtrum differs, because “we
pay a lot of attention to R&D, technology and quality,” said Li.
company has also steadily built its baseband portfolio, first by
developing its own TD-SCDMA baseband technology for China, then adding
WCDMA solutions through MobilePeak acquisition. Later on, Spreadtrum
licensed LTE baseband technology (CAT 4) from a company based in Egypt.
While Li declined to name the Egyptian company, he said that it is the
same company from which Beceem--now owned by Broadcom--also
licensed LTE technology.
“By the end of this year, I will have
in my portfolio every technology handset vendors need and what Qualcomm
and MediaTek already have. I will be there,” said Li.
significantly, “I can drop the price by half,” compared to those
developed by the Western chip companies, he claimed. “We do so by
offering not inferior products, but that are as good as those of my
competitors, in terms of quality and performance.”
Why could he say that? “Because my cost structure is low,” Li smiled.