MediaTek plans to ship 200 million smartphone chipsets this year, dedicated tablet CPU coming in Q3
No wonder Qualcomm’s trying hard to get a foothold in China, and it’s using every advantage it can think of in the process. All of the ‘big guys’ in the mobile chipset space are surely a bit uneasy looking East and seeing MediaTek’s incredible rise. Which isn’t going to slow down, by the way, since the company is looking forward to selling more than 200 million smartphone chipsets in 2013.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, MediaTek is the Taiwanese company that makes the smartphone chipsets that almost all of the so-called Chinese ‘white-box’ vendors use. These ‘white boxes’ are sold with various brands applied to them in Chinese stores, and they make up a pretty big portion of the overall smartphone market in China. And, by some measures, that’s already become the biggest smartphone market in the world.
So you can obviously understand why MediaTek went from 10 million chipsets sold in 2011 to 110 million sold last year. And no, that’s not a typo. For a long part of its existence, MediaTek focused solely on chipsets with 2G connectivity only – because 3G took a while to become ubiquitous in China. And it was able to offer significantly better deals on 2G technology compared to its rivals. Things have changed, and MediaTek now makes a lot of 3G-capable chips, which then end up in Android-powered smartphones across China.
Which brings us to Android. It’s pretty clear that the openness of this platform has enabled most of those white-box vendors to exist in the first place, since the price for the operating system they use is essentially zero. Sure, in the past some had used Windows Mobile without any license from Microsoft, but in Android’s case there’s absolutely no fear of any possible lawsuits in the future. Android enabled the white-box industry, which is supplied almost exclusively by MediaTek.
So, in a way, MediaTek’s rise is closely linked to Android. That’s an interesting side effect of the popularity of Google’s mobile operating system.
Anyway, MediaTek expects TD-SCDMA chipsets to account for 20-25% of its projected sales volume for this year, WCDMA units to be around 40-50%, and EDGE chips from 20 to 25%. TD-SCDMA is the 3G flavor used exclusively by China Mobile, the world’s biggest carrier in terms of subscriber count. WCDMA is what’s internationally known as 3G (HSPA too), and EDGE is the 2G tech that still sells in some places (China included).
So you can see from this breakdown that MediaTek managed to very quickly turn itself from a 2G-focused entity into one that pretty much depends on the sales of its 3G-capable chips.
MediaTek expects its market share in China this year to be 30-40% in TD-SCDMA solutions, 50-60% in WCDMA/HSPA, and 70-80% in terms of EDGE chips. So, effectively one out of every two HSPA devices that will be sold in China this year will have a MediaTek processor and baseband chip inside. And about a third of the TD-SCDMA units, and the majority of 2G phones. That’s quite an accomplishment for a company that just 2-3 years ago was a serious underdog in this industry.
Let’s not forget that MediaTek’s first quad-core processor, the MT6589, is launching as we speak in many Chinese brand devices. The lack of a quad-core unit so far in its portfolio may have prevented some possible additional sales last year, but now that this hurdle has been cleared, the road to over 200 million parts sold has become pretty straight. And to help it get there fast, the company will also release a dedicated processor for tablets, which is expected to launch in the third quarter.