MAKUHARI, Japan -- Kawasaki Steel Corp. and Sonicblue Inc.--formerly known as S3 Inc.--announced a joint investment in ComSilica Inc., a Berkeley, Calif.-based startup focused on broadband wireless technology for the IEEE 802.11a standard. Both Kawasaki Steel and Sonicblue said they hoped to use technology from ComSilica to offer new products for next-generation wireless local area networks.
Established on Aug. 1, ComSilica is the first spin-off company from Berkeley Concept Research Corp. (BCRC), which is a Kawasaki-funded technology incubator company. Kawasaki and Sonicblue did not release information about the level of their investments in ComSilica.
ComSilica said it is developing a next-generation broadband wireless technology, called WhizNet, which will serve home networking applications with transmission of data up to 54 megabits per second in the 5 GHz band.
The investment will give Sonicblue "preferential access to high-bandwidth wireless technology for use in our Access division's home networking products, while furthering our goal to become a leading supplier of the key building blocks for the digitally connected home," said Ken Potashner, chairman and CEO of the company, which has refocused itself on home automation and Internet appliances (see Nov. 1 story). "In addition, we foresee incorporating this standard into future Sonicblue products."
Citing forecasts from analysts, Sonicblue said the market opportunity for broadband and wireless local area networks was on the verge of exploding. The company said the number of wireless LAN users is expected to reach 23 million by 2003 compared to 5 million in 2000. Revenues from wireless LAN applications are also expected to grow to nearly $2 billion by 2003 compared to just over $400 million, according to forecasts cited by Sonicblue.
Access to WhizNet will help Kawasaki Steel address what is expected to be huge market for wireless LANs in Japan. "We realize the importance of broadband wireless technologies in the home, and believe ComSilica has all the ingredients needed to create the technology for this key application," said Susumu Hirano, general manager of the LSI Division at Kawasaki Steel. "Wireless broadband networks are geared up to have a global presence -- including strategic impact on Japanese consumer equipment companies -- and this investment will strengthen our strategy for global expansion in this market through cooperation with ComSilica," Hirano said.
The investments and cooperation with two companies will help ComSilica accelerate its developments. "The investment from Kawasaki and Sonicblue will allow us to not only bolster our engineering efforts to deliver the WhizNet products as quickly as possible, but also to build strategic relationships with them that will help strengthen various aspects of our infrastructure," said Surendar Magar, chief executive officer of ComSilica.