Current Chipsets are Focused on Enabling Seamless 4G and Preparing for the Upcoming 5G Disruption

Interview

ByNijhum Rudra 0

Anku Jain, managing director, MediaTek India

Nowadays, millions of electronic devices and automobiles are dependent on semiconductors, which are now in a massive production crisis since the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic. Production of smartphones and automobiles was halted in the factories and failed to meet the increasing demand. In response to the shortage, various semiconductor manufacturers have started expanding their production capacities with increased investment. But, building and funding a new semiconductor plant is at least a five-year-long process, claims expert. In this regard, we spoke to Anku Jain, managing director, MediaTek India, about the sector’s growth potential in the coming years, upcoming technologies, and how 5G based IoT chipsets could be a game-changer.

Q. Globally, where do you see the semiconductor industry standing at this point? In the coming years, where do you see its growth potential?

While the global semiconductor industry was poised for a transformation even before the pandemic, COVID-19 provided the much-needed impetus for expansion and widespread development. According to a recent IDC report, the global semiconductor market is likely to expand by 17.3% this year, as compared to 10.8% last year. This significant growth has been driven by higher requirements for smartphones, notebooks, servers, smart home gadgets, etc. as people began to spend almost all their time at home. Smart devices are a prerequisite for everything from work from home and online education to digital entertainment and communication and this has boosted the semiconductor industry tremendously.

The IDC report further indicates that 5G semiconductor revenues will surge 128% this year, while total mobile phone semiconductors are likely to grow by 28.5%. The global semiconductor market is estimated to be around 600 billion dollars by 2025, indicating a CAGR of 5.3% between 2021 and 2025. Going ahead, we expect demand to be maintained at a healthy level and the global semiconductor industry to normalize and become balanced by mid-2022.

Q. How could 5G based IoT chipsets be a game-changer? What is MediaTek doing to improve this technology?

The pandemic has made the world a more connected place as we recognized the need to accelerate digital transformation. In this landscape, IoT and similar new-age technologies will play a leading role in creating a more connected ecosystem and developing a sustainable and resilient future. The Indian IoT industry is primed for significant expansion, with industrial IoT and consumer IoT being at the forefront of the revolution. 5G based IoT chipsets will be game-changers in this scenario as we require a robust, high-speed, and low latency network to leverage the advantages of this technology. With the 5G spectrum likely to arrive in India soon, MediaTek is looking forward to a boom in the Indian IoT market. We are offering our spectrum and R&D expertise to OEMs and network carriers to prompt quick adoption of the disruptive technologies and are also aiding IoT adoption through the current 4G network.

There is no doubt that seamless connectivity can help address some of the pain points faced by society during a crisis, especially in key segments like security, energy management, collaboration, health monitoring, telemedicine, and remote classes and our efforts are aimed at these verticals. We believe that a super-fast 5G network combined with technologies like IoT, AI, ML, Cloud, and edge computing will help usher in a new era of smart and connected devices in India and are deeply committed to bolstering our telecommunication infrastructure to enable the economy and society to benefit from new use cases and applications. MediaTek Dimensity 5G series is at the forefront with integrated 5G technology for 5G smartphones, that enables incredible performance, connectivity, photography, streaming, gaming, and power efficiency across these devices. The 5G series of chipsets including, the flagship MediaTek Dimensity 1200, Dimensity 1000, Dimensity 900, and the recently released Dimensity 920 and Dimensity 810.

Q. What are some of the upcoming unique technologies that are going to be deployed in the chipsets? What kind of unique chipsets are you looking to launch in the upcoming time?

India offers us the ability to innovate and offer upgraded products and seamless services constantly given the wide range of customers in the market. The country is seeing exponential growth and our unique technology solutions are geared up to meet this demand. We leverage a variety of innovative technologies to offer unforeseen solutions and, currently, our focus is on technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence, gaming enhancements, narrowband Internet of Things, Wi-Fi 6, and 8K. We are collaborating with several leading OEMs to power the Make in India and AtmaNirbhar Bharat movement, and have already had several major launches this year. We also supply an array of IoT chipsets for application scenarios like wearables, location intelligence, smart home, and M2M. Over the coming months, we will continue delivering innovative products across segments including smartphones, camera solutions, home automation solutions, and smart gadgets for home and industrial users.

Q.Where do you see India currently standing in terms of FAB units and semiconductor manufacturing? How much is this aspect related to the growth of Electronics manufacturing?

With nearly 1.2 billion phone users, India offers tremendous opportunities in terms of semiconductor innovation and manufacturing. At present, we are still emerging from the unexpected turn of events following the pandemic. These events impacted the daily operations of several industries including the semiconductor manufacturing industry and caused a slowdown in FAB manufacturing. At the same time, the demand for devices surged, causing a demand-supply misalignment. With almost all firms halting production during the first lockdown, the industry faced a production loss of 20-25% in 2020-21. Initiatives like AtmaNirbhar Bharat along with economic stimulus packages and the National Policy on Electronics 2019 (NPE 2019), helped align the industry with the country’s goals to raise the overall share in the manufacturing of smartphones, IT hardware, and connected devices (IoT). The government also invited proposals for setting up semiconductor plants in India. This move is complemented by the fact that India has a large pool of talent that can be harnessed to make the country a next-gen manufacturing hub. MediaTek is extremely positive about India’s prospects of becoming a major electronics manufacturer in the years ahead.

Q. Currently, how many R&D units do you have in India and globally? How do you plan to expand your R&D facilities?

MediaTek has a total of xxx R&D units, globally, and of these, two major R&D facilities are located in India, at Bengaluru and Noida. We are keen on expanding our Indian facilities and are hiring engineers in FY22, with a focus on boosting capabilities across AI, home and enterprise segments, 5G, and wireless communications. We are reiterating our commitment and support to the government’s Make in India initiative by investing in local talent and scaling capabilities to drive innovation for India and global markets. This year, we have expanded our R&D budget to over $3 billion for future business growth opportunities and reports peg us as one of the major global investors in R&D when it comes to semiconductor companies. With the new hiring initiative, we will focus on skills such as protocol stack development, digital signal processing, Wi-Fi technology, and field testing.

Q. What kind of technology and equipment/machinery should the country look for to boost its semiconductor manufacturing?

India is a huge market for electronic products, indicating the urgent need to expand its semiconductor manufacturing capabilities. In fact, IESA data states that India currently imports 50% of its total electronics products demand and, over the next four years, the overall product demand will rise to approximately 368 billion dollars. The country has already taken significant steps to boost its semiconductor manufacturing capacity, like signing an MoU with the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association towards developing trade and technical collaboration in the electronics and semiconductor industries.

India has already taken initiatives to transform into a global electronics manufacturing hub and the government is keen on incentivizing the production and attracting foreign investments through 100% FDI relaxations. However, we need to address longer development life-cycle issues by adopting measures that accelerate product development and reduce time to market. In addition to the government setting up a Rs 4,000 crore fabless seed fund to establish 100 In the next five years, companies need to focus on R&D and collaborate with the government to build an AtmaNirbhar semiconductor industry in India.

Q. What are some of your current chipsets which you think can help you lead the competition curve? What are you looking to unleash in the coming years?

MediaTek’s current chipsets are focused on enabling seamless 4G and preparing for the upcoming 5G disruption. We are rolling out 4G and 5G-enabled devices for a new era of super-fast connectivity. Having unveiled our 5G modem in 2019 itself, MediaTek is the first chipset company, globally, to launch an integrated 5G SoC. Since then, we have consistently enhanced the technology and announced newer and more advanced chips under our Dimensity 5G SoC family. Our MediaTek Helio family of 4G chips is also a frontrunner in the current market. Our 5G chips are leading the competition curve because we power smartphones which offer customers an unequaled amalgamation of AL, connectivity, multimedia and imaging innovations across premium and flagship devices with the Dimensity 1000, 1100, and 1200 families, and broader market devices with the Dimensity 700, 800, and 900 families. Over the coming years, we aim to fulfill consumers’ demand for unique experiences and features with our recently launched MediaTek Dimensity 5G Open Resource Architecture. The innovative solution empowers OEMs to have closer-to-metal access to our chips and unleash new, more customized consumer experiences.

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