WAYNE, N.J. - Proving that the wireless LAN (WLAN) sector will be a complete chipset business going forward, Texas Instruments has struck an accord late today (July 30) to acquire startup RF component developer Radia Communications (Sunnyvale, Calif. ). By doing this, the well-known digital signal processor (DSP) developer can now provide a complete RF-to-baseband chipset solution for 802.11a, b, and g WLAN customers.
TI has been the subject of wireless LAN acquisition talks for the past several weeks. Over that span, many in the sector felt that TI was on the hunt to acquire Intersil's wireless networking operation, which is well-known for its RF expertise. However, in sharp contrast to rumors, TI has opted to pick up startup Radia, which is operating in stealth mode, over an established player like Intersil, which ended up in GlobespanVirata's hands two weeks ago for $365 million.
"We struggled with the question about acquiring an established company versus a stealth-mode company," said Yoram Solomon, director of business development and strategic planning in TI's Wireless Networking Group. "Clearly, no one would get fired for choosing an established company like Intersil in an acquisition." However, in the end, Solomon said the pricing, roadmap, and architectural openness at Radia made the company a more attractive acquisition target than an existing player.
In Radia, TI will get a fabless semiconductor house working on SiGe and CMOS front ends and with knowledge of the RF requirements for 802.11a, b, and g operation. The company's 802.11a offerings are particularly interesting because they span the 4.9 to 6 GHz range, allowing them to cover the Japanese bands as well as the recently released 5.7 to 5.725 GHz bands in the US. Radia also brings with it a portfolio of chips, which includes multiple WLAN products as well as products for the cellular industry and 802.16 fixed broadband space, Solomon said.
Through Radia, TI also gains access to an RF chipset it has experience with. In June, Texas Instruments openly said that it is partnering with Radia in the WLAN front. Specifically, the companies have have paired their complimentary technologies into a joint reference designs for 802.11b/g and 802.11a/b/g products.
A number of customers have signed up for the joint TI/Radia solution, Solomon said. These include Motorola, Samsung, Netgear, and US Robotics.
But, in reeling in Radia, Texas Instruments is running the risk of severing ties with other RF chipset vendors like RF Micro Devices and Maxim, which have both ported their 802.11 offerings to TI's baseband/MAC combo chip. According to Solomon, TI doesn't have an immediate plan to spin an 802.11b-only radio, thus keeping in tact their agreements with RFMD, Maxim, and others. TI is also open to partnering with these players in the 802.11a and g space. "If it makes sense to link our 802.11a and g baseband/MAC devices with another radio, we'll do that," Solomon said.
However, while remaining open to a third-party radio, TI is feeling the heat to provide higher layers of integration in its chipset offerings. And that integration, as Solomon openly stated, requires an in-house radio. "You can't get to higher integration without your own radio," Solomon added. .
Founded in 2000, Radia currently employs approximately 50 people. Once the acquisition is complete, the Radia operation will become a part of TI's Broadband Communications Group and will operate as Texas Instruments Sunnyvale Inc.
Terms of the transaction, which closed today, were not disclosed. Charges that will result from this transaction, primarily related to in-process research and development, will be determined in the course of the quarter
In addition to not revealing financial terms, TI remained quiet on what it would do with the non-wireless LAN components in Radia's stable. "We bought Radia for their WLAN components," Solomon said. "
TI, which is known for manufacturing chips in its own fabs, also remained mum on whether it would manufacture Radia's RF chips internally or through an outside fab. "We can't disclose this right now," Solomon said.