MediaTek takes aim at low-end Android market with new chip

MediaTek, the fabless Taiwanese chipset maker better known for its massive presence in the 2G baseband market, is looking to crack into the low-to-mid-range smartphone market with a new semiconductor platform.

MediaTek's MT6575

MediaTek unveiled the 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. The third-generation platform, which also sports a graphics engine and a four-in-one combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and FM radio, is not aimed at premium smartphones, which are trending toward quad-core processors. Instead, MediaTek aims to expand its presence in the sub-$200 smartphone market, targeting emerging markets primarily. 

In 2011, MediaTek recorded $2.95 billion in annual revenue and shipped 550 chipset million units for mobile phones, making the company the world's biggest mobile phone silicon vendor by volume. But only 10 million of the company's shipments were for smartphones--which is where the growth is in the phone industry. MediaTek's second-generation platform, the MT6573, started chipping via a Lenovo smartphone with China Unicom late last year.

In an interview with FierceWireless, Finbarr Moynihan, director of MediaTek's North America and Western Europe business development unit, said the company could ship up to 50 million smartphone units in 2012, based on the momentum it saw at the end of 2011. "We're trying to deliver a platform that allows customers that deliver products for the mid and entry part of the market," Moynihan explained, noting that the MT6575 will give customers an experience a step between Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 in terms of performance.

The platform's support for dual-SIM also means it is likely to be targeted at China and India, where dual-SIM phones are most popular. However, Moynihan said MediaTek is also focused on Latin America, which he said is an "aspirational" market in terms of customers' desire to adopt smartphones.

For right now though, Moynihan said the company is not focused on pushing the platform into the U.S. market and he acknowledged that there are "certainly some challenges for MediaTek there." However, he said the company is working with U.S. carriers to get validation for its modems, and that a number of MediaTek's OEM partners are pushing to get their smartphones in the low end of the U.S. market, adding that the MT6575 is "quite attractive" on price and performance.

And when will MediaTek shift to a focus on LTE? Moynihan noted that in July 2010 the company licensed LTE modem intellectual property from NTT DoCoMo and that Media is "in the process of internalizing that," but the firm is not ready to announce any timeline for launching LTE products. However, he said the company's goal is to develop an integrated platform that will support LTE and HSPA+ as well.

For more:
- see this release
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this PC Magazine article

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