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Comms chips

Sequans Scores $24M

French WiMax chip startup Sequans Communications has grabbed $24 million in its largest round of funding to date.

Sequan's latest round of equity funding was led by Kennet Capital with previous investors also participating. In total, the firm has now raised $35 million in funding since its inception in 2003.

Compared to some other chip vendors, the Gallic semiconductor startup has kept a lid on its funding, the firm's CEO, Georges Karam, tells Unstrung. "People say that for one chip you need $30 million," he says.

The firm has just started to sample its first system-on-a-chip based on the 802.16e mobile WiMax specification -- although the WiMAX Forum is only starting to get into interoperability testing using the mobile specification now. Sequans already has a fixed-WiMax chip out.

Karam is expecting to announce the general availability of the new chip sometime in the fall.

Like rival chip startup Picochip , Sequans is looking to the Asian market to kickstart the market for mobile WiMax. Samsung Corp. is already one of the driving forces behind such efforts with its mobile WiBro specification, which was commercially launched in April 2006.

Karam is working with handset maker LG Telecom in the Korean market where firms are already developing base stations using WiBro -- for instance, the recently announced mini-base station (femtocells) deal between Korea Telecom and PicoChip.

Samsung has already developed some mobile handsets using WiBro. Sequan's Karam anticipates that other vendors will follow suit.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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