Caixin
Jan 21, 2021 09:05 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Chipmaker MediaTek Launches New Chipsets as Smartphone-Makers Drive Demand Boom

After long trailing U.S. chipmaking powerhouse Qualcomm, Taiwan-baed MediaTek became the world’s largest maker of smartphone chips in the third quarter of 2020, with a 31% global market share.
After long trailing U.S. chipmaking powerhouse Qualcomm, Taiwan-baed MediaTek became the world’s largest maker of smartphone chips in the third quarter of 2020, with a 31% global market share.

MediaTek Inc. launched new flagship chipsets Wednesday amid record-high demand for its cheaper products from Chinese smartphone-makers scrapping for the market share left behind by besieged giant Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

The Taiwan chipmaker’s Dimensity 1100 and 1200 5G chipsets both feature advanced 6-nanometer processing technology from industry leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC).

Xiaomi Corp. Vice President Lu Weibing said at the launch event Wednesday that the world’s No. 3 smartphone manufacturer would be the first to launch a product powered by Dimensity 1200. Similar plans to build smartphones with Dimensity 1200 chipsets this year have also been announced by its peers Vivo and Oppo.

After long trailing U.S. chipmaking powerhouse Qualcomm Inc., MediaTek became the world’s largest maker of smartphone chips in the third quarter of 2020, with a 31% global market share, besting Qualcomm by two percentage points, according to a December report from market researcher Counterpoint.

The report showed that in that quarter, the semiconductor specialist sold a record-high 100 million system-on-a-chip processors — integrated circuits that contain all the essential components of an electronics system on a single chip — marking the first time MediaTek surpassed Qualcomm on that metric.

Also, over 45 million of the units it sold last year can support 5G, MediaTek Vice President Xu Jing said at the launch event Wednesday.

MediaTek’s rise to the top spot has been in part driven by the raft of U.S. sanctions that disrupted Huawei’s supply chains. These led to the domestic rivals of the world’s second largest smartphone-maker ramping up their orders for MediaTek’s less pricey 5G technologies as they grapple to secure greater market share.

Compared with Qualcomm, which still dominates the 5G smartphone chip market with a 39% share, MediaTek has technologies at a range of prices, said Wang Xi, an analyst at market research firm IDC, including products for smartphones sold for less than 2,000 yuan on the Chinese mainland.

“Affordable MediaTek chips fabricated by TSMC became the first option for many OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to quickly fill the gap left by Huawei’s absence,” Dale Gai, research director, said in the report, adding that Huawei had purchased a significant volume of chipsets from MediaTek before the U.S. government widened an earlier restriction to further curtail the company’s ability to supply Huawei.

The new products also come as MediaTek weighs a potential deal with fledging budget smartphone-maker Honor, in what would make it the second international chipmaker to help lift the former Huawei unit off the ground after it struck a deal with Qualcomm.

MediaTek told Caixin that it is “evaluating the current situation,” when asked earlier this month whether the company had plans to work with Honor.

The global 5G smartphone market is expected to continue expanding. MediaTek Vice President Xu Jingquan, said that about 200 million 5G devices were sold last year and that this figure will likely hit 500 million in 2021. His remarks are in line with the Counterpoint report that showed the demand for 5G smartphones doubled in the third quarter last year from a year before, with 17% of all smartphones sold during the quarter being 5G-capable.

Contact reporter Anniek Bao (yunxinbao@caixin.com) and editor Joshua Dummer (joshuadummer@caixin.com)

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