Israel’s Altair Semiconductor said Sunday it has raised $26 million to fund its development of super-fast wireless data chips for so-called LTE networks.
Altair makes low-power chips for LTE networks (Long-Term Evolution), also known as 4G wireless data networks. The LTE networks allow carriers to offer mobile data services with speeds of 12 megabits a second or more. Carriers can charge higher fees for their LTE service than they can for older services, so Altair’s chips are quite valuable.
Carriers have a variety of choices for how they can implement something like LTE. The chips that they use in their cell phone towers have to work with the chips used in smartphones and tablets. The carriers and hardware makers (phone makers such as HTC) can choose among different chip sets from wireless chip makers.
Altair argues that its chip sets are better than others because they use software-defined radio. That is, they use a single chip that can handle different kinds of wireless signals. By changing the software, the wireless signal can be changed. That’s a lot more efficient on cost and power compared to chips where every wireless signal has to be hard-coded into the chip. The trade-off is that software-defined radio has been very hard to pull off.
JVP led the round and all of the company’s current investors participated, including BRM Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Giza Venture Capital and Pacific Technology Partners.
Altair will use the money to accelerate its global expansion in sales and to support clients and develop the next generation of LTE products. Altair competes with other wireless chip set makers such as Qualcomm. Altair was founded in 2005 by former Texas Instruments executives.
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