MediaTek combines LTE modem with latest octa-core chip, aims for low-end smartphone market

Chipset vendor MediaTek is aiming to bring LTE to smartphones that cost less than $200 on an unsubsidized basis, using a new chip it hopes will finally let it crack more into Western markets.

The company's new MT659 octa-core system-on-a-chip combines an applications processor with a multi-mode LTE modem. The chip supports LTE Release 9, Category 4 FDD and TD-LTE with data rates up to 150 Mbps downlink and 50 Mbps uplink. The silicon also supports DC-HSPA+ of up to 42 Mbps, TD-SCDMA and EDGE for legacy 3G and 2G networks.

The chip is based on ARM Holdings' big.LITTLE architecture and uses four Cortex-A17 CPUs plus four Cortex-A7 CPUs. As IDG News Service notes, the Cortex-A17 is ARM's latest processor and was also just announced. The new chip also supports NFC, Bluetooth LE (4.0) radio as well as 4K Ultra HD video capture and playback.

"We've brought the missing piece," Mohit Bhushan, MediaTek's vice president and general manager of U.S. corporate marketing, told Re/code. "Last year we did not have LTE in our chipsets."

MediaTek wants to power LTE-capable smartphones that can sell for $199 or even $99. However, it will need to compete with industry leader Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and also Broadcom, Intel and Nvidia, which are making strides in their LTE roadmaps. MediaTek said the new chip will be commercially available in the first half of 2014 and is expected in devices in the market in the second half of the year.

The new release comes about a month after MediaTek unveiled its first multimode LTE chipset, the MT6290. Bhushan told FierceWireless in January that in the U.S. MediaTek is going take its LTE chips "through all of the carrier labs in the first half [of 2014] so they can flow through the market in the second half."

In 2013, MediaTek shipped its chips in more than 200 million smartphones and 20 million tablets, and had 37 percent revenue growth compared to 2012. However, the company has historically been stronger in China and other emerging markets than in North America. In 2013, MediaTek only shipped around 3 to 4 million units in the United States. However, the company clearly aims to increase that this year.   

For more:
- see this release
- see this Re/code article
- see this CNET article
- see this IDG News Service article

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