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4G/3G/WiFi

WiMax Success: It's in the Chips

5:20 PM -- Sure, we all like to talk about software and services as the big-margin keys to success. Hardware is commodity, right? It’s driven by chips and high-volume manufacturing. It’s the boring end of high tech.

Not so fast. Software and services are pretty useless without hardware to run all that code. And the wireless world is still a few years away from software-defined radio; we need full-custom implementations especially in the very mobile world of handsets. While many set off down the road to chip nirvana (I once counted over 65 WLAN chip startups, and I’ve been told by credible sources that there were in fact over 200!), only a few finish, all hoping to be the Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) of their particular product space. [Ed note: At least until Intel becomes the Intel of their space!]

And it’s not just great engineering that puts the winners at the top of the heap; it’s whom they know. That’s why I found today’s press release from Amicus Wireless Technology so interesting. Not heard of them? No surprise; they’re still in semi-stealth mode, except for this release, which announces that they’re working with mammoth Korean operator KT Corp. KT has already deployed WiBro. Amicus is working on “Wave-2” WiMax chips for handset applications. Wave-2 involves the use of MIMO, beamforming, and other advanced techniques to improve throughput, range, and reliability -- just as they’re doing for WLANs. Amicus has staked out what is certain to be the high-growth, high-volume end of the WiMax World, and it has a nice partner to break some kimchi with. Keep your eyes on these guys. Just like Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR) and Airgo Networks Inc. , someone is going to jump out in front in the WiMax chip race, and it just might be them.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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