From Qualcomm and Intel to MediaTek, Marvell and Broadcom, the
suppliers of the crucial components that power smartphone
applications and drive high-speed wireless connections are
scrambling to capitalize on opportunities taking shape as Chinese
brands and telecoms carriers such as China Mobile gear up for 4G LTE,
or Long-Term Evolution.
China's move to LTE, a standard now adopted mostly in the United
States, gives Intel and other chipmakers a unique chance to knock
dominant LTE chip supplier Qualcomm off its perch.
The Mobile World Congress will be a pivotal battleground.
With more Chinese companies than ever showing up in Spain — 99
exhibitors from China this year, up from 70 last year — the event
presents an opportunity for chipmakers to show off their best
Companies including Intel and Qualcomm will debut new and upcoming
LTE-oriented microprocessors in Barcelona. Many are designed to
consume less power and will be priced lower than previous
cutting-edge components, making them ideal for mid-range and cheaper
phones popular in China and other emerging markets.
That focus will be pervasive across the exhibition floor.
Qualcomm has created a Chinese version of a Mobile World Congress
smartphone app for the event and has posted translations of signs
around its display area. It's even sending pre-show emails in
Chinese directed at Chinese visitors.
"We're going to have a lot of demos targeted at China, a lot of
demos on LTE," said Executive Vice President Cristiano Amon.
"Qualcomm looks at the opportunity of LTE and the smartphone
migration in emerging markets as a very big opportunity."
Taiwan's MediaTek, little known in the United States despite being
the top smartphone chip player in the vast Chinese market, is
launching a branding campaign aimed at the event's 75,000 attendees,
with ads prominently displayed at the airport, convention center and
other areas around the city.
Billboard ads showing content smartphone users across a range of
ethnicities underscore MediaTek's plan to leverage its low-cost
business model to become a more global player and compete further
FUELING DEMAND FOR CHIPS
Thanks to an early technology advantage, Qualcomm has been virtually
the sole provider of LTE chips for smartphones for nearly four
years. The adoption of LTE in more countries is expected to fuel
demand for chips.
"They're very good at LTE," MediaTek Chief Marketing Officer Johan
Lodenius said. "What's in our favor is that all the operators
worldwide are really looking for an alternative. They don't want to
be single-sourced with Qualcomm."
Following engineering setbacks, Intel, MediaTek, Broadcom and other
Qualcomm challengers in Barcelona are also promoting new and
upcoming LTE offerings, although few of those chips are expected to
show up in smartphones that will be on display this week.
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Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker Marvell has made some early
progress, with its LTE components chosen for a handful of upcoming
low-priced phones aimed at the fast-growing China market.
On Monday, Intel announced a new LTE chip it's testing with major
wireless carriers. Intel Marketing Director Julie Coppernoll said
that chip would be used in phones sold later in 2014.
If so, that would be a major step forward in the Santa Clara,
California, company's smartphone business after it was slow to
recognize the mobile revolution sparked by Apple's first iPhone in
"There are a lot of people making a lot of noise about getting these
things to market. We're really getting ours to market," Coppernoll
said. "We have made radical shifts in progress and improvements in
our products and our working relationships."
Like other chipmakers, Intel has been redrawing its roadmap to focus
more on smartphones retailing below $300 and less on components for
high-end phones like the iPhone 5S, which in the United States
retails for $649 and higher without a contract.
Broadcom this month debuted its new LTE chip aimed at mid- to
Worldwide shipments of high-end phones are expected to grow a meager
4 percent a year through 2018, according to ARM Holdings, a British
company behind much of the technology used in mobile processors.
But shipments of mid-range phones and entry-level smartphones are
expected to grow 14 and 17 percent a year, respectively, ARM
For its part, Qualcomm on Sunday unveiled two upcoming mobile chips,
both of which include LTE and are aimed squarely at China.
Manufacturers are also set to announce more than 10 new
Qualcomm-based devices, including several LTE phones, said a
Even Microsoft — an also-ran in the mobile technology space — is
keen to expand its presence in the China handset market. It
announced a new reference design program to make it easy for
manufacturers to quickly launch Windows-based smartphones using
(Reporting by Noel Randewich; editing by
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