UWB Startup Gets VC Bump

Ultra-wideband (UWB) chip startup Alereon Inc. has grabbed $20 million of series B venture funding and says it will have chips in production by the first quarter of 2006.

This latest round, led by Austin Ventures, brings Alereon's funding total to $54.5 million. A spokesman for Alereon says the company will use the capital to get its first UWB chips in production and complete its second-generation product.

UWB chips, for those of you that have forgotten -- and it has been a while -- use simpler and higher-performance RF-to-digital conversion techniques than conventional narrowband radios. This makes UWB suitable for a huge range of battery-powered devices. The catch is that at high data rates, UWB is limited to a relatively short range.

It's been a quiet year for UWB boosters overall, perhaps due to a sense that the technology has not yet lived up to its potential. (See Ultrawideband Preps for CES.)

But there are signs that this has just been a temporary lull, as companies like Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (NYSE: FSL) are showing interest. Freescale recently demonstrated its Direct Sequence UWB (DS-UWB) chips operating with standard Bluetooth software stacks at data transfer speeds of up to 110 Mbit/s.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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