Comms chips

AirGo's SOHO Go-Go

Wireless LAN chip startup Airgo Networks Inc. has gathered another $35 million in venture funding as it attempts to build up its share of the high-end SOHO WiFi market.

The startup has pushed MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) chipset technology as a means of speeding up wireless LAN networks. This "smart antenna" technology uses multiple antennas to split the data flow, improving the overall performance of the radio link (see Airgoooooooooooo! ).

The company wasn't keen to talk about its latest funding round, but confirmed that it has received another $35 million in funding from existing investors. This brings the company's total funding to $132 million.

The money will be used in an attempt to bring "MIMO to the masses," as a company spokesman puts it. What this means in practice is cheaper second-generation chipsets that use a stripped-down two-by-two antenna layout. Linksys is said to be using the new AirGo chipset in its $100 MIMO router.

"The Linksys WRT54GX2 uses Airgo's second-gen chip set in a 2x2 MIMO configuration," says Bob Wheeler, an analyst at The Linley Group. "What they're doing right now is pushing the price points. The [new] funding allows them to continue to invest in R&D and maintain headcount with worrying about breaking even."

Wheeler reckons that Airgo makes revenues of around $15 million a quarter. "They're not profitable, but they do have significant revenues," he tells Unstrung.

And Wheeler thinks Airgo's moves into the classier end of the SOHO market will have an effect on its WiFi chip rival Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR).

"Clearly this is hurting Atheros right now, as they had the top end of the market with 'Super G' and Airgo has leap-frogged them."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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