Mediatek’s GM: “We will launch our global LTE offering later this year”

Weeks after MediaTek announced a 51 per cent jump in its first quarter profits to nearly £84 million, we asked Finbarr Moynihan, General Manager of Corporate Business Development at MediaTek, to tell us more about this Chinese semiconductor company who rose to prominence over the last 12 months.

What is the history of MediaTek?

MediaTek was founded in 1997 and is listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. The company offers a turnkey platform that provides end-to-end chipset solutions, which consists of hardware platform, reference designs, software features and professional support to customers. The company is the number one chipset provider globally for Optical storage (DVD and Blu-Ray) and in the top three in the digital TV and the smartphone markets.

MediaTek has been growing fast lately. Why do you think that’s the case?

Traditionally, the typical cycle for handset manufacturers is nine months and MediaTek’s approach has reduced time-to-market on average to four to six months. Our universal platform delivers premium multimedia capabilities with extremely low power consumption which in turn lowers development costs, barriers to entry and gives manufacturers the scalability to develop a full range of devices, from entry level to high-end across smartphones and tablets, all built on a single SoC.

Do you plan to move beyond the Android platform? How about Windows Phone?

We aim to produce solutions compatible with a range of operating systems in order to give all handset manufacturers equal access to our high-performance smartphone platforms and help them bring affordable smartphones to market quicker and at lower cost. However, in the near-term, we remain focused on Android, although historically we also do support the Windows Mobile 6.5 OS (ed: but neither Windows Phone 7 or Windows Phone 8).

How does MediaTek fit in within the eco-system of the mobile industry?

We are creating a mobile ecosystem to democratize technology. MediaTek shipped between 500 million and 550 million chipsets in 2012, mainly for feature phones. The company however, surged to the number three position in the smartphone applications processor market by the first half of 2012, according to research company Strategy Analytics. In December 2012, we launched the world’s first commercialized quad-core SoC developed specifically for mid to high-end smart devices. Our quad-core SoC solution enables the mobile ecosystem to bring the performance and features associated with premium mobile devices to the mainstream market at an affordable price and also lowers the barriers to entry to increase competition and choice for consumers.

What’s next, what are customers asking for?

According to Gartner’s forecast about the top tech trends, there will be market leadership changes among electronic equipment manufacturers (EEMs) needing to service all device portfolios. By 2014, three of the top five mobile handset vendors may well be Chinese. MediaTek is in a unique position which is the only IC design house who can provide solutions cross IT, CE, mobile communication and connectivity and become a leader in multi-screen era as a technology enabler to help shape the mobile ecosystem of the future. We are focused on moving up the value chain and diversifying our product range with new products which bring new value to the ecosystem by enabling manufacturers and partners to optimise market opportunities, with feature-rich functionality, simplified development, minimised resources and reduced time to market. Products like the quad-core SoC will enable our customers to bring the performance and features associated with superphones to the mass market at price points for smartphone and tablet users in every market.

Who are Mediatek’s main customers and partners across the globe?

We operate in two main platforms. In its mobile business, MediaTek has some very solid business relationship with global tier-1 operators. In the digital TV business, MediaTek has been engaged with all global tier-1 TV brands and manufacturers. We have grown by more than double the industry growth rate in the past few years and anticipate being able to maintain this momentum. In 2011, we shipped 550 million feature phone chipsets and 10 million smartphone chipsets and by 2012, we had increased the ratio of smartphones versus feature phone chipsets to 1:5. By 2013 we expect the global shipment of our smartphone solutions to reach 200 million units.

Our two main partners are ARM and Imagination Techbnologies. MediaTek was the first company to combine a quad-core Cortex-A7 (the most power-efficient applications processor ever developed by ARM) and 28nm manufacturing with TrustZone for system-level security. As for Imagination Technologies, it remains our preferred graphics solutions provider.

What is your strategy to take the multi-screen convergence to the next level?

As high end performance proliferates among mainstream devices, customers will demand greater device integration so they can share and view their entertainment and information seamlessly across multiple screens. This requires a sophisticated smart ecosystem that MediaTek’s SoC total solutions can drive. In 2013, we are confident that, given our full range of expertise and experience in mobile communications, digital home, optical storage, wireless communication, we will be a key force taking the industry to into the future. However, the biggest challenge lies in areas such as smart TV which is still evolving requiring OEMs and ODMs to follow multiple routes to get there. We want to be the catalyst to enable them to optimise the market opportunities, by providing feature-rich functionality, simplified development, minimised resources to reduced time to market so as to meet the demand today and tomorrow.

How is the acquisition of MStar changing the game in the multi-screen convergence arena?

MediaTek always recognised the increasing market demand for cross-platform multi-media experience and communication, our goal is to offer a range of solutions which consumers can easily transport content across platforms. As a chip vendor, we also find enough synergy in technologies we offer both in smartphone and smart TV platforms. With the acquisition, MediaTek sees strong synergy in driving more benefits to our customers with seamless integration of the technology of MediaTek and MStar across different screens and platforms.

What’s Mediatek’s next big thing?

We’ll launch various product solutions to provide more completed SoC solutions from low to high end and also to better address multi-screen convergence. So, you can expect more product launch from Smartphone, tablet, connectivity and DTV for sure.

Our latest announcement is around the first integrated platform integrated platform for entry smartphones, the MT6572, a dual-core Cortex-A7 CPU with HSPA+, Wi-Fi, FM, GPS and Bluetooth functions which also enables a cost-effective 4-layer PCB design. This cost-optimized, system-level design greatly reduces the e-BOM cost, simplifies the product development and enhances time to market as well as leveraging our flagship MT6589 quad-core HSPA+ platform. You will also see a series of announcements over the rest of the year as we continue to deliver features to our mobile platforms and launch our global LTE offering later this year (ed: could that be the quasi-mythical 8-core Mediatek MTK6599?).