MediaTek Incorporated (TWSE: 2454) is a global fabless semiconductor company that enables nearly 2 billion connected devices a year. It is a market leader in developing innovative systems-on-chip (SoC) for mobile, home entertainment, connectivity and IoT products.
MediaTek has dedicated itself to innovation and now positioned as a driving market force in several key technology areas, including highly power-efficient mobile technologies, automotive solutions and a broad range of advanced multimedia products such as smartphones, tablets, digital televisions, 5G, Voice Assistant Devices (VAD) and wearables.
In this interview, Rami Osman, the Director for Corporate Sales and Marketing at MediaTek, Middle East Africa, further underscores how the company empowers and inspires people to expand their horizons and achieve their goals through smart technology, more easily and efficiently than ever before.
Osman has been working in the Middle East and Africa’s ICT industry since 2002, and has held a number of positions.
TE: Can you tell us your recent event you had in Dubai and also what do you intend to achieve with your partnership with Airtel?
Rami Osman: We try to keep touch with the media in big markets every year. So, we did the global conference. In Dubai, it was a physical event.
In Dubai, we invited the press from all the key markets which includes Turkey, Pakistan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, and we showcased our technologies and our recent projects, especially the ones in 2023. We focused on regional successes and we showed some devices made from the region.
There is a manufacturing industry in Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and design industry in South Africa. We hope that more and more manufacturing and designs can come from the region. So, we invited the media to see for themselves because it will be very difficult for the media to connect with these things if they don’t understand them.
They would think it is impossible to manufacture or design anything outside of China. There is a big misunderstanding from the media side. The consumer does not have to understand how the supply chain works, but the media needs to, especially since after the Covid-19. So, inviting the media to show them and talk to them about how the design works was important.
Talking about Airtel, MediaTek is a global supplier, so we work with everybody. But for purpose of optimising the technology, we do like to work closer with the operator, so that the user can get good experience from the commercial device.
You are not buying the device from Media Tek, it is not a MediaTek branded device and you are not running it on a MediaTek network.
There is no such business model, not even Apple offers that, we have to work with each other. The chip set is from me, the design of the board, the software and operating system is from Google and it is manufactured by probably a Chinese company and all these work seamlessly on one operator in Nigeria. If Africa is close to 50 countries, each country on the average has three telecom operators. So, Africa has 150 telecom operators and so it is impossible to test with all. So, we select the leaders.
For example, in this territory, Airtel seems aggressive and working and cares for the optimisation. Not all operators care for the optimisation and not all telecom companies want to work with a chipset company to test Wi-Fi and to test cellular connection.
All the suppliers like Samsung, OPPO and the factories that make the router are all our customers in Asia. We work as a reliable bridge to the manufacturers.
Any new technology, be it fintech, tracking for vehicles or routers, company like Airtel will leverage our knowledge of the supply chain. That is because nobody understands the electronic supply chain like the chip set companies. It is like the main ingredient in a meal. If you to make an electronic device, the first thing is the chip set. The manufacturers of battery, plastic component, memory, display, everything, are controlled by the chipset and any company like Airtel will leverage our solutions.
TE: What do you think is the future of technology globally as we continue to see efforts to blur the divide between the physical and digital world through artificial intelligence (AIs) and Virtual Reality (VR)?
Rami Osman: With the next generation of virtual assistants, we have started to see the connection between the physical and digital worlds. We now have text-based AI assistants. So, I think going forward more of these intelligence will go to the clients’ side.
MediaTek next year will have some announcement about this, when we move from the stage of only cloud-based, text format AI interaction interactions that generate pictures and stuffs like that, to more like business, entertainment, hospitality with active AI generation on the clients’ side.
I think starting next year, if the time is ripe, the platform suppliers will move their AIs from just the current status to better web-search and some virtual and writing services for all aspects of life. I think next generation of AI platforms on the cloud would better merge the physical and the virtual and make it a reliable experience.
TE: We are seeing more MediaTek-powered devices like smartphones, wearable connectivity and more. Can you tell us more about Mediatex products?
Rami Osman: We are a consumer electronics company; we are not a connectivity, mobility or media company.
We started from media, which is where the name MediaTek came from. So, when started to listen and enjoy hundreds of MP3 sounds and USB sticks, the players were powered by our system.
So, we kept leveraging and moving to new products. So, what we learnt in the media space, we moved to TVs and what we learnt from TVs, we moved to smart phones and what we learn in smart phones, we use in tablets and internet of things (IOTs). So, there are three major categories of MediaTek products.
The first, the legacy category includes the TVs and set up boxes. You know, like the DSTV in Africa, a big part of their service uses MediaTek chips in their set up boxes, whether it is the basic set up box or the advanced over-the-top (OTT) set up box.
We have a lot of operators using our set up boxes. For TV, probably your TV at home is using a device from MediaTex, unless it is a model from Samsung or LG. That is because we have like 70 per cent of the TV market globally and most of the android TVs use MediaTek.
If you move towards computing, the computing leader globally is Intel, because of their dominance with Microsoft for a long time. In Chromebook, we are the largest globally.
Chrome is Google’s android for the laptop or hybrid or notebook forum factor. If this category progresses, we would progress. There are limitations on the progress of this category, especially with the huge success of the Macbooks and now corporates are limiting their employees to the Windows platform. But, we think that sooner or later, we would have MediaTek processing chipsets.
More or less of the same platform is used for tablets, Chromebook and smartphone. But of course, a smartphone has much wider range and we are the world’s largest chips supplier for smartphones and Android, since 2019.
Talking about media, computing and mobility and then talk about the next generation like 5G connectivity IOTs, are some of the new things that MediaTek is working on. Like I said, we power a greater percentage of global electronic devices every year.
TE: How is MediaTek adapting to ever-changing technology industry? And can you speak about some of your technologies that focuse on bridging the digital divide?
Rami Osman: We have a smart feature phone that is coming to an operator in Africa. Smart feature phone is a bridge between feature phone and smart phone. There is always enhancement of different operating system – touch screen or no touch screen, what is the price tag that will make the 2G guy jump from a $7 phone to a $20 phone, instead of jumping to a $30 phone.
The smart feature phone continues and we are doing something with one operator in November.
In terms of bridging the digital dividend, it is about mobility and access as well as finding that proposition as low as possible close to the 2G phone, to enhance migration and connect more people to the internet. If you talk about other aspects of life and digital inclusion, you also have to factor in commercial transactions. Kenya has been leading with mobile payments. But that has to do with mostly using legacy system like the SMS.
In Nigeria and other places in Africa, start-ups are coming up with different payment platforms that are affordable, secured and flexible. If you go to MCDonalds in Dubai, you can make orders through electronic terminals and you can make payments using an Andriod point of sale (PoS) terminals.
But, that is understood because it is an advanced market. But when you go to rural African communities and meet people selling mangoes who are not able to utilise their trade fully because of the problems associated with cash and she doesn’t have a bank account. How do you service those millions of SMEs and unbanked merchants using the new ideas and fintech companies in Africa? MediaTek is supplying them with very affordable, unique and secured payment terminals.
TE: How is MediaTek incorporating AIs into IoTs to support the current trend that is expanding that market?
Rami Osman: Actually, MediaTek was the first company that started talking about Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoTs).
If you look at many electronic companies, if you check their products, they have ranges of AIoTs. When we started with AIoT, people mocked it and said it was complicated, that they barely understood IOT and we were already talking of AIoT. But it is picking up. AIoT is about making the IoT or the smart machine talking to each other.
It is about machines talking to each other with a controller and a low level operating system. It can only do what the programmer tells it to do. AIot, for example, we have couple of customers, such as Amazon, who have developed home appliances with the camera that can study cooking appliances and visual status of the dish. That is just little of what the new home appliances with AIoT can do.
IoT devices with some AI, then you get machine learning and better and smarter IoT devices. Some of the new and advanced gym equipment have it and many of these devices are using MediaTek chip set for smarter interaction with the person who is working on the gym equipment daily.
So, AIoTs are transforming lives and the world.