NEW YORK – MediaTek, the world’s fastest growing smartphone chip supplier, has this week begun sampling what the company calls “the industry’s first commercial quad-core smartphone chips, integrated with multimode modem.”
Others are already shipping quad-core apps processors, but none has introduced an apps processor integrated with a modem in a single chip, claimed Finbarr Moynihan, MediaTek’s general manager for business development.
MediaTek's quad-core Cortex-A7 SoC, dubbed MT6589, is being positioned to compete head-to-head with Qualcomm, which announced last week two new quad-core chips, similarly integrated with a modem that works with UMTS, CDMA and TD-SCDMA.
Both are based on ARM’s Cortex A7 cores.
The difference is that “we are sampling now, and the chips are ready for mass production in the first quarter of 2013,” Moynihan said. “We have a customer shipping in January handsets with MediaTek’s quad-core chip inside.” Qualcomm’s quad-core chips will start sampling in the second quarter of next year, with volume production scheduled for the second half of 2013.
MediaTek's SoC, fabricated using a 28-nm process, integrates its multi-mode UMTS Rel. 8/HSPA+/TD-SCDMA modem, a quad-core Cortex-A7 CPU subsystem from ARM and a PowerVR Series5XT GPU from Imagination Technologies.
Drawing a sharp distinction from mobile chip vendors who have seen the market shrink due to the dominance by smartphone chip giants like Qualcomm and Samsung, MediaTek said its smartphone chip shipments increased more than ten-fold this year, from 10 million units in 2011 to 110 million units.
Key to this success was MediaTek’s mid- to entry-level smartphone chip platform based on its single-core Cortex A-based MT6577 running at 1 GHz and a dual-core, 1-GHz Cortex A9-based MT6577. That platform was primarily designed for the under-$190 smartphone market, Moynihan said.
With the new quad-core SoC, MediaTek said it plans to move up the value chain to tackle the market for premium- to high-level smartphones everywhere but the U.S.
In the first half of 2012, Strategy Analytics ranked MediaTek second (with a 12.8 percent share of revenues) in the global cellular baseband processor market that includes2G, 3G and LTE. While MediaTek’s strength in the feature phone market is well known, MediaTek made significant progress with the “help of its strong 3G smartphone processor shipments,” according to the market researcher.
MediaTek’s quad-core SoC adds HSPA+ and TD-SCDMA to the company’s established 3G/HSPA modem. This is “the first platform for HSPA+, supporting Dual-SIM" so users don't miss calls, Moynihan said.
The dual SIM card phone played a critical role in the proliferation of feature phones in Asia since they enable the use of two services on a single phone. As data usage increases, the importance of the dual-SIM feature has become even more important. "A user could be surfing the Web on a 3G SIM card and simultaneously receive a call on a 2G SIM card, for example,” said Moynihan. Handset vendors, however, would still need to add an extra radio and transceiver to make this dual-active mode work.