Alereon's $31.5M New Year

Ultrawideband (UWB) silicon startup Alereon Inc. has closed a massive $31.5 million first round of funding, which the company says will give it enough moolah to operate through to the end of 2005 and bring its first chipsets to market.

The sheer size of Alereon's round is another sign of the excitement about the potential for UWB among investors, despite the current stalemate over the development of an actual standard at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) (see UWB Standards Split?). The technology uses short digital pulses spread over a large number of channels to deliver data transfer rates of around 110 Mbit/s over distances of around 10 meters. In contrast, Bluetooth devices available today can push data at less than 1 Mbit/s over a similar distance.

Alereon is one of the members of MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA), the 42-company body that wants to see its version of UWB adopted by the IEEE, against the objections of Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), which has its own specification (see UWB in Limbo). MBOA will now develop and market its own version of UWB, and a final specification is expected in May.

Alereon, which is staffed by ex-Time Domain Corp. engineers, will then start sampling its first chipsets in the third quarter of this year, according to Jeff Ross, executive VP at the firm. The chips will be aimed at the kind of PC "cable replacement" applications for which users might currently use 802.11 or Bluetooth.

Ross thinks that there are several reasons why Alereon managed to secure such a big round. The firm, he points out, has a team of experienced engineers who have already worked for a year on the product. The company also has access to the mass of related intellectual property assembled by Time Domain, which has more than 250 patent applications in this field. In fact, the investment puts Alereon at the top of the list for recent UWB funding rounds. Wisair Ltd. trails in Alereon's wake with a paltry $15.5 million (see FLAG Appoints New Head).

"It's not a typical first round," Ross admits.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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