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Renesas Mobile CEO sees LTE, modem tech as keys to success

Posted: 31 May 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LTE? modem technology? cloud services? mobile chip vendors?

Renesas Mobile Corp. CEO Ikuyo Kawasaki is by no means the typically quiet, reserved and enigmatic Japanese corporate bigwig. His true character shines through from his desk all the way down to every corner of the company's Tokyo headquarters and even beyond.

Although Renesas Mobile, Japan's mobile chip vendor, is only six months old, it's already making noisea lot of which comes straight from Kawasaki's mouth. He is outspoken in his ambition to turn the company (whose current share in the global mobile handset market remains negligible) into a credible competitor against Qualcomm with a 20 to 30 percent share in the next few years.

Kawasaki said the catalyst to this boom will be LTE. Armed with a proven and trusted LTE protocol stack gained from Nokia, Kawasaki likes his odds.

The company, created as a result of Renesas Electronic's acquisition of Nokia's modem business, already has 1,900 employees, of which only 550 are Japanese nationals.

While no market analyst dares yet to regard Renesas Mobile in the same class with Qualcomm today, none is underestimating Kawasaki, the architect behind Renesas- Nokia's modem business merger. That deal literally surprised everyone, and put Kawasaki on the industry's radar.

But there's a long way to go. In the rankings of top-tier cellular chip vendors in 2010 revenue, Will Strauss, president of Forward Concepts, estimated Renesas with a three percent share. Forward Concepts will formally release the rankings on June 1.

Strauss said, "There's no question that Qualcomm is the number one in modems for 3G, HSPA+ (and CDMA); TI is the number two in 3G & HSPA (thanks to Nokia); and Renesas should take over much of that after 2012, but not much before then."

In LTE, Samsung is number 1, ahead of Qualcomm and LG Electronics, he added. The LTE market landscape, however, remains fluid. "A single big order (like HTC's Thunderbolt) can change that LTE ranking," he noted, because LTE is still in its infancy. While there are 19 vendors who have announced LTE baseband chips, Strauss said, "only a few are actually shipping."

2010 Chip market

The 2010 total cellphone chip market was $55 billion, including the second-tier companies that make Bluetooth, GPS, power management chips, etc. (most not included in this chart).
Source: Forward Concepts

By choosing Nokia's modem business as its acquisition target, Renesas, in a way, let the cat out of the bag, according to an executive working at a Japanese semiconductor company. "Renesas, in essence, told the whole world that NTT Docomowhile still the most important client/partner in the Japanese mobile worldis no longer a partner Renesas can depend on to advance and execute its own global strategy," he noted.

Kawasaki, not afraid of defying Japan's common wisdom, is a smart, bold, straightforward and even playful 53-year-old top executive (young by Japanese standards).

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