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Pulse-Link Throbs With $30M

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LR Mobile News Analysis
Light Reading
4/27/2004

Californian startup Pulse-Link Inc. has secured a $30 million Series-D investment to further development of its ultrawideband (UWB) chip technology.

The round brings Pulse-Link’s total funding to $38 million and makes the company the best funded of a handful of startups using UWB technology for high-speed links between wireless devices (see Staccato Raises $20M, NTT Invests in Wisair UWB, and Alereon Scoops $31.5M).

Unlike most other UWB companies, Pulse-Link’s idea is to use UWB as a high-speed alternative to 802.11 wireless LAN technology with a range of 30 to 40 meters. It is not deeply involved with the short-range (approximately 10 meter) UWB systems proposed by the likes of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE), the MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA), and the UWB Forum.

“Our sweet spot is the 40-meter to 60-meter range,” says Pulse-Link CEO Bruce Watkins. “Inside 40 meters we’ll give higher data rates than 802.11g.” However, Watkins shies away from talking about specific data rates and instead says that at a minimum the system will enable several 20-Mbit/s high-definition TV streams “with plenty left over for data networking.”

Pulse-Link says its Software Defined Cognitive UWB Radio chips could also be used to upgrade cable TV networks and to enable home electric power lines to carry high-speed data. The claim makes Pulse-Link something of a maverick compared to rival vendors that are entirely focused on wireless applicatons for UWB.

But the company has so far been cagey about actully explaining how its products will work, in either wireless or wireline implementations. Pulse-Link will receive its first test silicon in May and anticipates commercial production by mid-2005.

The company also plans to demo prototypes of its technology at the International Telecommunication Union’s third global UWB conference in Boston this June.

The lead investors in this latest round of funding are all Kuwait-based firms: GSM carrier Mobile Telecommunications Co. (MTC), National Investments Company, and Jamson Holdings. Six other publicly-listed Kuwaiti firms also participated in the round.

— Gabriel Brown, Chief Analyst, Unstrung Insider

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