Qualcomm chip shortage hinders Pantech’s return
By Kim Yoo-chul, Cho Mu-hyun
Pantech, Korea’s smallest mobile phone manufacturer, unveiled a high-profile smartphone Thursday using advanced long-term evolution (LTE) technology as part of its desperate attempt to ride the industry’s new trend.
But Pantech isn’t entirely happy about the debut of the Vega Racer 2 and it is highly likely that the company will miss this year’s sales target as U.S.-based chip giant Qualcomm is having trouble supplying chips for its new 28-nanometer Snapdragon S4 System-on-Chip (SoC), used by major handset makers including Samsung, LG, Taiwan’s HTC as well as Pantech.
``We are having difficulties in getting chipsets from Qualcomm due to the shortage,’’ said Lee Joon-woo, Pantech’s chief technology strategy officer, during an event to unveil the Vega Racer at the firm’s headquarters in Seoul.
The Vega Racer uses the dual-core Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor provided by the San Diego-based Qualcomm. As Pantech is a second-tier customer for Qualcomm unlike Samsung, it’s no surprise that the chip shortage is weighing more heavily on it.
``We are trying our best. We are talking with Qualcomm about the issue, though situations are not favorable for us,’’ said Lee.
Qualcomm is the industry’s sole company that supplies the ``single chip solution’’ to customers through volume manufacturing. The chip integrates mobile application processors (APs), 3G, and LTE functionality into the one item.
Pantech is paying billions of dollars as for royalties in return for using Qualcomm’s various telecom patents.
Samsung Electronics will release its Galaxy S3 smartphone at its ``Mobile Unpack’’ event in London on Friday (KST), which will have different specifications for different markets. As Samsung is the world’s top memory chip supplier, it is going to use its Exynos-branded quad-core mobile APs in the ongoing model’s Korean version.
On the remarks by the Pantech executive, Qualcomm Korea declined to comment as it’s not its policy to talk about client-related matters.
The Vega Racer is a blend of power and longevity by paring a 2,020 mAh battery, which it claims can manage an estimated 9.5 hours talk time and 245 hours on standby, while still offering speedy LTE connectivity.
``We plan to contend fairly (in the market), in front of Samsung and Apple and the consumers,’’ said Pantech.
The new handset is the sequel to Pantech’s Vega Racer that sold over 1.6 million to become a certified hit.
Pantech currently holds 17 percent of the market share in smartphones in South Korea, a mere quarter of Samsung Electronics, which had 64 percent as of last month.
The 4.8-inch new handset, in both black and white, boasts many features, including an ultra slim width of 9.35 millimeters, weighing 133 grams.
Pantech is using Samsung’s advanced organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display.
“When we make a product, we always consider what quality consumers look for in a smartphone. Improved mobile service, video quality and applications were fine (they said), but these caused shorter battery life, and they wanted longer battery duration. Our 1600 engineers worked hard to meet their expectations,” according to Pantech.
The company plans the new phone will match the stellar sales of the Vega Racer, and they expect it to sell 2 million within the year.
The Vega Racer 2 is also the first handset to apply Korean voice recognition, which Pantech plans to make applicable to other language such as English and Japanese.