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Technology

Chipmaker MediaTek takes 5G phone fight to Qualcomm in China

Taiwanese company battles for business from the likes of Xiaomi and Oppo

MediaTek's 5G smartphone chips will debut in China early next year.   © Reuters

TAIPEI -- Taiwanese semiconductor designer MediaTek will put its own 5G mobile chip on the market early next year, challenging U.S. leader Qualcomm for business with Chinese smartphone makers.

MediaTek hails the Dimensity 1000 series of chipsets as the world's speediest processor for telecommunications and artificial intelligence.

The product will ensure that the Taiwanese company keeps pace with rivals in the era of fifth-generation wireless technology, CEO Rick Tsai said during the unveiling on Nov. 26 in Taipei.

MediaTek's move has broader implications. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world's largest contract chipmaker, will produce the Dimensity chips, which could influence its competition with South Korea's Samsung Electronics.

The first mobile phones equipped with MediaTek's new chips will go on sale as early as January, Tsai said.

Chinese smartphone makers are anticipated to be the initial buyers of the chips. Executives from Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and other brands issued statements at the event. MediTek also has its eye on the global market, Tsai said.

MediaTek has marketed its chips to Chinese smartphone startups in conjunction with instructions on designing their phones. The rise of low-cost smartphone brands drove MediaTek's growth, but the company started encountering competition from Qualcomm and others for such business around 2015.

Besides Qualcomm, Huawei Technologies semiconductor affiliate HiSilicon has also emerged as a rival in the 5G field.

Lora Ho, TSMC senior vice president, described MediaTek's 5G chipsets as highly competitive at the event on Nov. 26. They are made using the 7-nanometer process, one of the most advanced methods for scaling down transistors.

Qualcomm outsources part of its 5G chip manufacturing to Samsung Electronics. But some reports claim that the South Korean company is struggling with production yield. If MediaTek catches up to Qualcomm, TSMC might raise its profile compared with Samsung.

On Nov. 25, MediaTek announced it will supply 5G modem chips to Intel for personal computers. The Taiwanese company will focus its 5G technology outside of smartphones as well, Tsai said.

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