BEIJING — Nufront Co., a fabless chip company based here, is already a household name in the Android community in China. While still virtually unknown in the U.S., Nufront is a company to watch, as it battles against similar apps processor companies like RockChip and AllWinner in China. A larger question remains, though, how Nufront will define its new frontier – beyond the tablet/smartphone market.
Undoubtedly, the broad availability of popular, licensable IP cores like ARM (for apps processors) and CEVA (for baseband comms chips) has helped level the playing field for many Chinese fabless companies in recent years. Nufront is one of the beneficiaries.
Where Nufront differs from other up and comers, though, is that the company, founded in 2004, has already been around the block. Its eight years in the industry have cemented closer ties with the Chinese government agencies. With that comes government funding. Not everything has worked out in its favor, though, and the company has a few scars to show for it.
Acho tablet powered by Nufront’s apps processor
A case in point is China’s mobile TV standard. Nufront, in the mid-2000’s, dabbled with the nascent digital mobile TV market, throwing itself behind one of China’s home-grown mobile TV standards, Terrestrial-Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting (T-MMB). However, just before the Beijing Olympics, China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) ended up supporting — and institutionalizing — a rival standard, China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting (CMMB).
Nufront is also known for its deep involvement in developing China’s national wireless technology, called Enhanced Ultra-High Throughput (EUHT) WLAN. With government funding, Nufront has been working on the national standard for more than several years. While the world is yet to see EUHT commercialized, Rock Yang, vice president of marketing at Nufront, stressed that the project is still on, and its ultra-high throughput wireless technology – 1.2Gbit per second throughput – will be deployed in China’s vertical market in 2013.
Nufront today has about 700 employees, with a team of 400 engineers. Two hundred are software engineers, while 150 are working on hardware systems, and 50 are specifically focused on chipsets, according to the company.