Beceem Beams With Samsung Win

Chip startup Beceem Communications Inc. announced this morning what has only been hinted at before: It is supplying silicon to Samsung Corp. for use in fixed and mobile WiMax applications.

The pair has actually been working together for a while, according to Lars Johnsson, VP of business development for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Beceem. "They have chosen our chipsets; that is very exciting."

A win with the South Korean giant is important for any young chip company simply because Samsung is currently the front-runner in the mobile WiMax market. Samsung has been instrumental in developing the Korean flavor of mobile WiMax, which is called WiBro, and getting networks deployed in its home market long before similar technology arrives in the U.S. or Europe.

Beceem is still being a little coy about exactly what it is supplying to Samsung. Johnsson notes that Samsung's work on WiMax "terminals" spans everything from desktop modems to mobile handsets.

Beceem, however, claims to be among the first vendors to develop so-called "Wave 2" mobile WiMax chipsets, which use smart antenna and radio techniques to ramp up the data rates and capacity available using the broadband technology. So it seems reasonable to anticipate that Samsung may try to use the silicon in some of its more advanced projects.

Samsung initially invested in Beceem in December of 2005. The firm is also backed by other key WiMax players such as Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and currently funded to the hilt with over $90 million raised in four rounds since 2003. (See Beceem Gets $40M.)

In fact, talk at the recent 3GSM show suggested that even others in the industry currently see Beceem as the startup to beat and a potential acquisition target for a larger player. Johnsson wouldn't comment on those suggestions. (See 3GSM: The Vino & The Damage Done.) The official link-up between Beceem and Samsung, however, comes at a time when more and more major players are pumping money into it and other startups working in the mobile WiMax field. Witness Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s funding of Sequans Communications recently. (See Friday Funding Roundup.)

Major players need to ensure that they have sufficient supplies of silicon as the market goes mobile in 2008 and beyond, and the chip startups are really making the running in this market at the moment. Hence the funding infusion for these young companies.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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