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UWB Startup Alereon Uncloaks

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LR Mobile News Analysis
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8/25/2003
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Ultra-wideband (UWB) chipset designer Alereon Inc., which largely consists of ex-employees of UWB startup Time Domain Corp., today emerged from stealth mode with an undisclosed amount of venture funding and a commitment to implement the version of the short-range, high-speed specification currently favored by Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN), and others (see Alereon Goes Ultrawide).

UWB is seen by many in the industry as one of the more exciting radio technologies to come to the fore [ed. note: fore!] in recent years. The technology uses short digital pulses spread over a large number of channels to deliver data transfer rates of around 110 Mbit/s over distances of around 10 meters. In contrast, Bluetooth devices available today can push data at less than one megabyte per second over a similar distance.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) is developing a short-range UWB standard, which it designates as 802.15.3a [ed. note: mmm, catchy]. Two opposing sides are pushing to have their preferred technology adopted by the IEEE (see UWB Caught on the Hop).

TI and chumlets have formed the 20-company strong MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA) to promote its preferred flavor, while Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has teamed with startup Xtreme Spectrum Inc. to push for a different technology as the basis for 802.15.3a (check UWB Heavyweights Get Together for details).

Alereon is committed to the MBOA approach, according to Jeff Ross, executive VP of the Austin, Texas-based startup. "In fact, we really tend to view it as our architecture [developed while most of the Alereon crew were with Time Domain]," Ross says.

Ross says that the split with Time Domain was "all done on very good terms." Alereon is working to develop chipsets for commercial personal area networking (PAN) equipment, whereas most of the contracts that Time Domain has announced are with the U.S. military.

Ross will not comment on the amount of funding that the company has so far received -- its current round hasn't actually closed yet --although he says that it is more than the few million dollars that would constitute a seed fund to get the company started.

Austin Ventures is the lead investor in the company. Ross says that he expects the VC round to be completed late in the third or in the fourth quarter of this year.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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