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PicoChip Maxes With Airspan

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LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
10/26/2004

Wireless processor startup PicoChip Designs Ltd. has announced its first win in the nascent WiMax space, scoring a deal with broadband wireless vendor Airspan Networks.

In April this year, the U.K.-based newcomer threw its hat into the 802.16 ring, following initial efforts in the 3G cellular base-station market (see PicoChip Hot on WiMax, PicoChip Touts WiMax, and PicoChip Plays 3G Cost Ace).

Today’s deal will see Airspan deploy the startup’s chip in its 802.16-compliant base stations. “Airspan are using our standard PC8520 software for their base stations and are also licensing their software to us so we can license it to other customers,” says PicoChip’s VP of marketing, Rupert Baines. “They are licensing the MAC. We do the PHY processing and they do the MAC.”

Initial products will be focused on 802.16-2004 technology, a WiMax standard ratified in June this year and intended for fixed wireless use (see WiMax Spec Ratified). The future 802.16 revision e standard, which adds mobility extensions and could turn WiMax into an alternative to wireless LAN hotspots or 3G mobile networks, will be supported by software upgrades.

Baines claims that Airspan is not the only equipment vendor using its WiMax chips, but he is -- naturally -- unable to reveal names. “We have other unannounced customers varying from interesting startups to established names.”

The marketing man argues that previous WiMax chipset deals have targeted customer premises equipment (CPE) rather than commercial base stations. “Most of the deals announced have been for the terminals side of things. I don’t think anyone has anything announced for the base-station side.” (See Fujitsu Readies WiMax Chip, Intel's WiMax Drive, Sequans Maxes Up, and Wavesat Breaks Into WiMax.)

To date, PicoChip has raised $24 million in VC funding from the likes of Pond Ventures and Atlas Venture (see TelASIC, PicoChip Cash In). “We will be going out to raise more cash in the future,” adds Baines.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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