Comms chips

Atheros Buys Into GPS

WiFi chipset maker Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR) has revealed plans to buy GPS specialist u-Nav Microelectronics for $54 million in a deal that extends its existing WLAN, Bluetooth, and PHS silicon portfolio with location technology.

The chipmaker says that the acquisition will help it to incorporate GPS on its chipsets and reduce the cost of adding location services by cutting out extra silicon for positioning purposes. Atheros plans to integrate u-Nav GPS into its "Radio-on-Chip for Mobile" product line.

When the acquisition closes, u-Nav employees will be transferred to Atheros. The chipmaker will also take on the patent cross-license agreement between u-Nav and SiRF Technology Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: SIRF).

The Atheros deal follows Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM)'s acquisition of Global-Locate Inc. in June this year. To a certain extent, both are playing catchup with Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), which claimed this August that more than 300 million mobile handsets have now been shipped worldwide with its gpsOne silicon onboard.

Nonetheless, the move by Atheros is a reflection of the growing importance of incorporating GPS capabilities into all kinds of devices. As well as phones and PDAs, GPS is now used in everything from standalone direction finders to watches and will soon become more common in laptop computers. (See Qualcomm Boasts GPS Handsets.)

ABI Research is predicting that the overall GPS market will be worth $22 billion in 2008. And you know what they say about predictions. (See ABI: GPS Worth $22B in 2008.) In separate news, Atheros has also announced 802.11n-compliant chipsets for the home gateway market. The firm says it will be showing off the AR9220 and AR9223 chips at the 2008 International CES show in January.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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