July 1, 2013
Altair Attacks 4G LTE Market With $25M In New Financing
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Altair Semiconductor, an Israeli startup company that builds LTE chips for smartphones and tablets, has just received $25 million in financing from existing investors Bessemer, BRM, Giza, JVP and Pacific Technology. The small company of only about 150 employees has already built the communications chips which appear in some devices sold in Russia as well as modems available in the US through Verizon Wireless.
Altair only builds chips which connect to 4G LTE, a move which could give them a powerful position against other chipmakers in the market. While the competition is vying to sign contracts with the smartphone heavy hitters, Altair is focused on only LTE chips and selling them at a lower price. Like market-leader Qualcomm, the rest of the communications chip industry builds chipsets which can downgrade to 3G networks where 4G LTE is not available. With this new round of funding now complete, Altair will continue to push forward with just LTE chips and begin shipping as many as they can as quickly as they can.
Co-founder and CEO of Altair Oded Melamed understandably believes LTE-only is the future.
"As LTE networks reach coverage parity with 3G in key markets, carriers realize that removing 3G and adapting LTE-only is the most efficient way to significantly lower costs and increase mobile broadband attach rates," said Melamed in a statement.
"Our month over month increase in chip shipments is a testament to the widespread move towards LTE-only across the industry and we intend to use the funds to support our customers as they ramp high-volume production and deploy their products in the field."
While Altair is announcing today that they've just received an additional $25 million in funding, they've received more than $100 million in earlier funding. One of Altair's investors, Bessemer Venture Partners, has an impressive portfolio which includes companies like LinkedIn, Staples and Skype.
According to Bloomberg, Altair could have a shot at competing directly with Qualcomm in the next few years if they continue to operate as they do. As more devices are connecting wirelessly to the Internet through 4G LTE, Qualcomm and other chipset makers have experienced a boom in business. For example, Qualcomm provided 86 percent of the LTE chipsets shipped last year alone. Morgan Stanley doesn't expect the demand for these chips to slow anytime soon, saying the number of smartphone users could grow to one billion next year. This has got companies Broadcom and Nvidia also looking to move into the market.
While Altair's competitors may be fighting to earn the business of Apple or Samsung, they are focused on building LTE only chips to whoever wants to buy them. Though they certainly wouldn't turn down the business, these phone makers need their devices to work under a myriad of possible situations. This means switching to 3G connectivity when 4G is out or reach or unavailable. Currently Altair technology can be found in about 30 end-user devices, including USB dongles and smartphones.