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Jul 01, 2013

Altair Semiconductor raised $25M for cheap, efficient LTE chipsets – VentureBeat


July 1, 2013

Devindra Hardawar

It won’t be too long until 4G LTE networks are just as ubiquitous as 3G, and at that point devices won’t even need 3G.

That’s a future Israel-based Altair Semiconductor is betting on — its LTE-only chipsets don’t have the added expense of 3G connectivity, which means they’re both cheaper and more power efficient than competing LTE + 3G chipsets from Qualcomm.

Investors are also keen on Altairs’ vision: The company announced today that it has raised $25 million in an internal round of funding, bringing its total funds to more than $100 million. Existing investors Bessemer, BRM, Giza, Pacific Technology, and JVP participated in the round.

“Our strategy is to develop LTE chipset solutions, but the [ultimate] vision is to create that inflection point in getting LTE into pretty much any and every device,” said Eran Eshed, co-founder of Altair Semiconductor, told VentureBeat in an interview. “LTE has to hit a certain price point.”

Eshed points out that the company is focusing more on connected devices, rather than bringing its technology into smartphones. (The smartphone market is also dominated by much bigger players, while the connected device market is wide open.) Altair’s technology is smaller than LTE chipsets that include 3G, which makes it well-suited to devices of all sizes, from small wireless hotspots to laptops. So far, its tech has been implemented in more than 100 devices.

Altair initially started off by focusing on WiMax 4G technology, but Eshed notes that it was one of the first companies to abandon WiMax. It switched focus to LTE in the middle of 2009 — right before Verizon began rolling out its LTE network.

When it comes to making LTE more widespread in devices, Eshed tells me we’ll need four things: ubiquitous LTE coverage (of course); attractive service providers; enough value to encourage consumers to pay more; and the cost of implementation has to be inexpensive. In the U.S., we’ve got the first three items mostly covered, but it’s still fairly expensive for device manufacturers to include LTE. Altair’s chips may change that.

Altair Semiconductor will use the new funding to grow its operations and capitalize on its market lead, Eshed says. The company has been focusing on research and development for most of its lifetime — now it needs to scale so its LTE-only solution will be ready for an LTE-saturated market.