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.
In the very long term, I think most US cell phone companies plan on migrating 100% to LTE. In other words, they will use VoLTE, and GSM and CDMA will go away.
So I certainly hope MTK has a plan for LTE if they want to be part of the US market.
Linley Gwennap, principal analyst at the Linley Group, just pinged me.
He is absolutely right. The rival Qualcomm chip MTK is referring to in this article is Qualcomm’s second-generation quad-core processor with integrated modem – which is not on the market yet.
However, Qualcomm in September already announced MSM8225Q, a similar qua-coredevice but based on Cortex-A5, with production in 1Q13.
Qualcomm’s MSM8225Q has an integrated UMTS modem.
As Gwennap says, this put Qualcomm “not that far behind MediaTek in reaching the market.”
Also, Gwennap believes that MediaTek is “being a bit optimistic in positioning the MT6589 for high-end smartphones, as it won't match the CPU or graphics performance of true high-end processors such as APQ8064 or Exynos 5250, and it lacks LTE.”
Indeed, MTK does not have a plan for LTE until later in 2013, according to the company.
Gwennap, however, added, “But the [MTK’s] chip will be great for mainstream smartphones, and it is a big step up for MediaTek.”
Fair enough. However, MediaTek's new quad-core apps processor/modem SoC appears pretty much on par with that of Qualcomm's snapdragon.
The fact that MTK is rolling this out in the current quarter is a feat.
But of course, when it comes to LTE modem, Qualcomm is far more advanced.
whats make MediaTek think that Qualcomm can't offer a chip-set that have a features like The MT6589 and also Qualcomm can add more top notch features in their Snapdragon Processor. With large R&D and innovation Qualcomm made, its not easy for MediaTek to steal the show from Qualcomm in premium and high-end smartphones market. The Snapdragon brand still the leader.
Its sad to see that when companies advertise their new chips, they just mention the 3G and 4G technologies present in them. I guess it wouldnt harm in mentioning 2G as well considering all the hard work that still goes on to get it to work with other standards. No modem is ever made without 2G in it and I think the engineers deserve some credit.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.