MediaTek aims to raise smartphone chip profile in 2013

Silicon company thinks making headway in North America will take time
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LAS VEGAS--MediaTek expects to continue to grow its presence in the smartphone processor market in 2013, but does not think it will grab a significant foothold in the North American market this year, according to a company executive.

Taiwan's MediaTek may not have the name recognition of Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) or Nvidia, but it was the No. 3 smartphone applications processor vendor in the world in the third quarter of 2012, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. As in 2011, MediaTek in 2012 shipped between 500 million and 550 million chipsets, mainly for feature phones, according to Finbarr Moynihan, the company's general manager of business development.

The firm had thought it would grow smartphone chipset shipments from 10 million in 2011 to 50 million in 2012, but wound up shipping 110 million smartphone chips. The vast majority of those 2012 smartphone chip shipments were from the company's MT6575 system-on-a-chip (SOC) platform, which runs on a single-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9 design from ARM Holdings, and supports an HSPA modem and version 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform. In June MediaTek announced a dual-core chip and last month unveiled a quad-core solution, which Alcatel One Touch is using for its Scribe HD smartphone.

In an interview with FierceWireless here at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Moynihan acknowledged the bulk of the company's smartphone business is still coming from China. He said that in 2013, MediaTek's smartphone chips will make their way into devices in other emerging markets and could make it into devices in Western European markets as well.

However, Moynihan said MediaTek is at a disadvantage in North America because its chips do not yet support LTE and CDMA, which removes many carriers from consideration. "2013 is going to be about continuing to lay the groundwork for success later," he said, regarding North America. "I don't think you could expect us to have significant success in smartphones in North America."

Looking ahead to the rest of 2013, Moynihan said MediaTek's quad-core chip will be in products in China in the first quarter and in Western Europe and perhaps North America during the second half of the year. By year-end, he said MediaTek plans on unveiling a solution that integrates LTE, though that chip won't start shipping until 2014.

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