Blu Wireless Technology Ltd., a startup company founded in 2009 developing high-performance programmable baseband technology, has closed a £2 million (about US$3.1 million) round of funding.
The company, based in Bristol, England, said it would use the money to double its staff number to about 30 people and push forward with an IP licensing business model for its Hydra 60 GHz baseband engine. As well as offering the technology for 802.11ad next-generation WiFi, the company is finding interest for back-haul communications for 4G networks.
Henry Nurser, CEO of Blu Wireless, told EE Times in a telephone call that in 2012 the company made the decision to change its business model from that of a fabless chip company to an IP licensor. He said the company's strength is in mapping parallel processing to modulation and demodulation algorithms for gigabit WiFi data transmission. The company could provide a low-power, small-area advantage as well as allowing its technology to be retargeted to similar communications protocols whether single-carrier of OFDM-based, he said. The approach scales to anticipated standards that will target 20 Gbit/s data transmission rates, the company announced in a press release.
Nurser added that he expected there would be a race to enter the market for gigabit WiFi, similar to the one that accompanied 2.4 GHz WiFi a decade ago. "We are in position to enable companies to enter the market," he told us. "Our architecture and micro-architecture are stable. We will be shipping prototype IP in the next months and demoing the technology early in 2014."
Blu Wireless's move to market is being helped by the coming together of industry bodies. At the beginning of 2013 the WiFi and WiGig industry associations outlined plans to consolidate their activities within the Wi-Fi Alliance. The transition of technology development activity and WiGig assets to the Wi-Fi Alliance was due by mid-year and the first Wi-Fi Alliance interoperability certification program for WiGig products is expected to launch in 2013.
Nurser says there's an expectation that WiGig would take off in the marketplace in 2015, which would follow a two-year process for companies developing and validating products. "In the back-haul space demand is already there. The small-cell initiative has taken off and unlicensed 60 GHz is the best solution."
The company was founded by Ray McConnell, who serves as chief technology officer. McConnell began his career with Inmos and was successively thereafter a founder of Division, PixelFusion, and ClearSpeed Technology. Blu Wireless has been working with several leading semiconductor and systems companies and has two lead customers for its Hydra modem engine, Nurser said. He declined to name them but said one is involved in 4G back-haul and consumer electronics, and the other is involved in back-haul only.
The funding round was led by Qi3 Accelerator, which represented a syndicate of private investors and included Wren Capital. Significantly, apart from some seed funding of £250,000 taken early on, this is the only venture capital round Blu Wireless expects to take. Although Nurser alluded to the possibility of some strategic investment from a company, he is projecting that Blu Wireless will be at breakeven in the middle of 2014.