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Menlo Micro's 'Ideal Switch' touted as major upgrade to 5G

Startup Menlo Micro announced the closing of its $44 million Series B funding round Wednesday morning. The company said the funding would allow it to begin producing "millions" of switches every month starting in 2021.

And that, according to some of the company's high-profile investors, will have significant ramifications for 5G and other high-tech industries.

"For 40+ years, the industry has been searching for a switch that has the perfect combination of the electromechanical relay and the silicon transistor," said Tony Fadell, a principal at Future Shape, in a release from Menlo Micro. Future Shape is one of the investment companies participating in Menlo Micro's latest round of funding. "Menlo Micro's Ideal Switch is a tiny, efficient, reliable micro-mechanical switch with unmatched RF-performance and, counterintuitively, high-power handling of 1,000s of Watts. As our world moves to the electrification and wireless of everything, Menlo Micro's deep innovation is already triggering massive cross-industry upheaval."

Fadell's words carry weight – he designed the iPod and helped design the iPhone over the course of a decade at Apple. He then founded Nest – subsequently acquired by Google – before joining Future Shape.

Menlo Micro CEO Russ Garcia told Light Reading that the company's new "Ideal Switch" is "very, very special." He explained that it's a mechanical switch that can turn communications on and off much more efficiently than current technologies, which he said will have major implications for wireless communications, including 5G specifically. He said the company is already in discussions with a range of customers, and that Menlo Micro's new switch will be initially targeted at 5G infrastructure vendors like Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung.

"By combining the key benefits of both electromechanical and solid-state technologies, the Ideal Switch is providing users a 99% or more reduction in key system-level metrics including performance, size, weight, power consumption and cost," the company boasts in a release.

Menlo Micro traces the origins of its technology to 12 years of research and development at General Electric; GE Ventures spun the startup out via an $18.7 million Series A round of funding in 2016 with investors like Paladin Capital Group, Microsemi Corp. and Corning participating. Menlo Micro's Garcia said the company has retained its existing investors and added new ones like 40 North Ventures.

"The concept of an 'ideal switch' was theoretical – something companies have been working to achieve for decades – until Menlo Micro," Marianne Wu, managing director of 40 North Ventures, said in a release from Menlo Micro. "We are incredibly excited to work with such a dynamic, experienced team on a core technology that is disrupting nearly every industry."

Since obtaining its first round of financing, Menlo Micro has been working to refine its manufacturing process. The company said it expects to begin producing up to 100,000 units per month by the end of this year. The company's products are made in a facility run by Silex in Sweden.

Garcia said Menlo Micro's switch can be applied to a range of industries, but that the company is initially targeting the 5G, aerospace and public-safety industries. He said the company has ambitions to eventually sell its switch into the wider Internet of Things (IoT) space.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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