While most mobile chip vendors saw their customer base shrink in 2012, MediaTek is talking about a ten-fold increase in its smartphone chip shipments.
MediaTek’s current focus is still on entry-level smartphones (defined as under $190), the fastest growing market. Strategy Analytics forecasts that the segment will grow to 580 million units in 2017, with a compound annual growth rate of 30 percent.
While defending its position, MediaTek also hopes to move into the high- to premium-level smartphone market in 2013, which raises the question: Will MediaTek be able to go toe-to-toe with Qualcomm in 2013 in the high-end smartphone market?
Linley Gwennap, principal analyst at the Linley Group, is skeptical.
MediaTek likes to say that its upcoming quad-core apps processor/modem SoC based on ARM Cortext A7 is already sampling. But Qualcomm announced the MSM8225Q, a similar quad-core device but based on Cortex-A5, in September. Qualcomm's chip is integrated with a UMTS modem. It’s not a Cortex A7-based quad-core, but Qualcomm’s first-generation quad-core apps processor/modem chip will enter production in the first quarter of 2013. As Gwennap says, this puts Qualcomm “not that far behind MediaTek in reaching the market.”
The analyst added that MediaTek is “being a bit optimistic in positioning the MT6589 for high-end smartphones. It won't match the CPU or graphics performance of true high-end processors such as APQ8064 or Exynos 5250."
MediaTek also lacks LTE, Gwennap noted. In fact, LTE products won't arrive until the end of 2013, according to Moynihan. But Moynihan reminded that the company's strategy is to leverage LTE technology it licensed from NTT Docomo in 2010.
Despite efforts by companies like Renesas Mobile and ST-Ericsson to perfect their LTE modems, the LTE market has been slow to take off.
Beginning as soon as the second half of 2013, LTE could become a battleground where the winners and losers among mobile chip vendors will be found. This, of course, depends on the status of ST-Ericsson and Renesas Mobile.
Meantime, MediaTek will have to hustle in 2013 to keep pace with Qaulcomm and Samsung.
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