Optical/IP Networks

Airgo's Quids In

Speedy wireless LAN chipset designer Airgo Networks Inc. has raised $25 million in a second round of venture funding, which the firm plans to spend on producing its first chips in volume and designing its second-generation products.

The startup has so far scored a total of $77 million in funding. The firm's initial investors -- Accel Partners, Nokia Venture Partners, Oak Investment Partners, and Sevin Rosen Funds -- have stumped up wonga for this round as well.

Seventy-seven million dollars may seem like a lot of money for a startup developing a chipset based around a relatively untried radio technology -- multiple input multiple output [ed. note: What the hell, let's call it "MIMO," shall we?] -- for wireless LAN applications. But it's about par for the course for a chip startup. By way of comparison, chipset rival Atheros Communications has so far raised nearly $100 million in funding, developed four generations of product, and recently filed for an initial public offering (see Atheros Files for IPO).

MIMO is a transmission technique aimed at overcoming radio communications problems by taking multiple "snapshots" of the same signal and combining them to make a -- hopefully -- more accurate overall picture than the single data stream usually passed between 802.11 clients and access points (see Airgoooooooooooo! for more details). It uses multiple antennas to transmit these signals, hence the name.

The sheer cost of developing these chipsets partly explains the amount of funding chip startups need, according to Greg Raleigh, Airgo's CEO. It costs millions just to produce prototypes of the radio and control elements of the chipsets, let alone to prepare the finished silicon for volume production.

"We're shipping modest volumes now," says Raleigh, but he expects to start ramping up the numbers in the next couple of months.

Airgo's AGN100 chipset uses a multimode design that supports the 802.11b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz), a (54-Mbit/s over 5GHz), and g (54-Mbit/s over 2.4 Mbit/s) standards. Airgo claims that its design can crank up the data transfer speeds on wireless LAN networks to 108 Mbit/s at a range of up to 300 feet (if both the client device and access point are using the Airgo chips).

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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