Gadgets

To boost faster Wi-Fi, STMicroelectronics licenses Quantenna’s technology

Quantenna Communications aims to produce wire-like wireless. To push that dream further, the startup is licensing its technology to chip giant STMicroelectronics today. Geneva, Switzerland-based STMicroelectronics will integrate Quantenna’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology into its system-on-chip platforms, so that Quantenna’s design will become a small part of a larger chip.

For consumers, that means that cheaper and faster Wi-Fi is on the way. Fremont, Calif.-based Quantenna designs chips that can transfer data using the Wi-Fi wireless networking protocol at faster rates, making it possible for users to fling high-definition video around the home without worrying about bogging down the network. The ST deal is a big vote of confidence for Quantenna, which has raised a whopping $159 million in its history.

Sam Heidari, CEO of Quantenna, said in an interview with VentureBeat that the licensing agreement is a very important one for his company, as it will allow Quantenna to get into devices that it would not have otherwise been able to. Heidari said that 802.11ac wireless networks may transfer data at theoretical speeds of 6 gigabits a second, compared to 600 megabits a second for the previous generation of 802.11n chips.

The two companies have started joint engineering integration efforts and the first ST products with Quantenna Wi-Fi are expected to debut in 2014. STMicroelectronics had $8.5 billion in revenue in 2012. Quantenna is a chip design house that specializes in MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology, which can be used to cram more data into a wireless network. Quantenna’s technology will enable wireless networks to handle multiple high-def video streams at the same time.

Quantenna was founded in 2006, and it has funding from Sequoia Capital, Venrock, Sigma Partners, Southern Cross Venture Partners, DAG Ventures, Rusnano, Swisscom Ventures, Grazia Equity, and Telefónica Digital. Rivals include Qualcomm-Atheros, Broadcom, and Marvell. Those companies are all much bigger than Quantenna, but its focus on high-end technology has helped it. ST placed a bet on Quantenna, Heidari said, because the startup proved itself with its competitive 802.11n chips, or the previous generation of Wi-Fi chips.

Quantenna is focused on making multi-user 4×4 MIMO Wi-Fi. That basically translates to faster networking. With this in place, consumers will be able to put wireless devices anywhere in the house, even a multi-story house, and get a strong Wi-Fi signal. For an internet service provider, it means fewer customer service calls.

Quantenna’s customers include Airties, Amper, Cisco, Datasat Technologies, Gemtek, Motorola, Netgear, Sagecomm, Sigma Designs, Swisscom, Technicolor, and Telefónica.


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