Amplifiers: Atlanta IC Developer VT Silicon Receives $3.3 Million to
Develop WiMax Chips
Other topics: Bulgarian WiMAX Operator,
WiMAX Chip Development,
WiMAX Network Bahrain
Atlanta, GA -- Atlanta radio-frequency integrated circuit developer VT
Silicon has received a $3.3 million round of financing from
California-based Menlo Ventures. The funding will help the company
design and produce prototypes of its new “intelligent power amplifier”
chips for the next-generation of WiMax mobile devices.
silicon-germanium (SiGe) semiconductor materials, the VT Silicon chips
will include patent-pending distortion-prevention techniques – known as
linearization enhancement – that are designed to support the complex
signals used by WiMax devices. To reduce chip costs to justify
high-volume consumer applications, the company is building its
amplifiers on low-cost SiGe instead of the more exotic – and costly –
gallium arsenide (GaAs) materials used in most existing WiMax power
“This funding will allow us to take the linearization techniques we have
already proven in a test chip and apply them to commercial chips within
the next 9 to 12 months,” said Mike Hooper, VT Silicon’s CEO. “Our plan
is to be shipping samples to customers early next year and to begin
ramping to production by the middle of next year.”
VT Silicon is a member company of Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology
Development Center (ATDC).
WiMax is intended to provide significantly higher bandwidth and broader
coverage for the next generation of mobile devices that will support
such applications as streaming video. Sprint Nextel Corp. has already
announced plans to roll out WiMax service in large metropolitan areas
during 2008, and as a result, manufacturers are rushing to provide the
special chipsets the devices need.
That will require some engineering innovation, as the new WiMax mobile
devices will demand more power – but be less forgiving of the distortion
caused by nonlinear effects that occur at higher power levels, Hooper
Meeting the technical demands in potentially high-volume devices will
require new levels of optimization -- in addition to new techniques for
controlling distortion. VT Silicon has already developed one
linearization technique, and is working on others.
For its chips, VT Silicon has developed proprietary Linear Enhancement
Technology (LET) that will permit the higher power levels. Because SiGe
can support both conventional bipolar transistors as well as CMOS, the
LET can be implemented on the same chip as the power amplifier,
providing cost and design simplicity advantages.
“SiGe affords us the ability to put very sophisticated control and
intelligence within the power amplifier because SiGe can combine both
CMOS – which is low power control circuitry – and bipolar transistors in
one fabrication process,” Hooper noted. “It gives us the ability to get
fairly complex, allowing us to make intelligent power amplifiers.”
However, the designers will have to compensate for the relatively lower
RF power levels currently produced by most SiGe power ICs. "We have some
proprietary technologies to get the power we need," said Hooper. "We can
be competitive with gallium arsenide on power levels."
The company initially plans to produce two power amplifiers for the
WiMax market, operating at 2.5 GHz or 3.5 GHz. As a step toward volume
manufacturing, it will work with customers to create a reference design
for each prototype chip. Jazz Semiconductor Inc. of Newport Beach,
Calif. will produce the chips.
Hal Calhoun, managing director at Menlo Ventures, is bullish on the
future of the WiMax market – and VT Silicon’s solutions. “We believe
that the leading-edge technology from VT Silicon will be very
competitive in this fast-moving market,” he said. “The combination of
silicon germanium and unique linearization techniques makes the
company’s technology attractive to the key players in this new market.”
About VT Silicon
VT Silicon designs and manufactures multi-band radio
frequency integrated circuit (RFIC) solutions for the mobile wireless
broadband market. The company’s products leverage novel linearization
and efficiency enhancement technologies that enable original equipment
manufacturers, original design manufacturers and reference design houses
to manufacture broadband, highly-efficient, low-cost and small-footprint
modules and transceivers. For more information, please visit (www.vtsilicon.com).
About Menlo Ventures
Menlo Ventures provides long-term capital and
management support to early-stage and emerging-growth companies. It is
one of Silicon Valley’s oldest venture capital partnerships, and has
organized and managed nine venture funds since its inception in 1976.
The firm has more than $4 billion under management, and a team with more
than 100 years of collective experience in technology, marketing, sales
and general management. For more information, please visit (www.menloventures.com).
About the ATDC
Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC)
is a nationally recognized science and technology incubator that helps
Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful companies. ATDC
provides strategic business advice and connects its member companies to
the people and resources they need to succeed. More than 100 companies
have emerged from the ATDC, including publicly-traded firms such as
MindSpring Enterprises – now part of EarthLink. For more information,
please visit (www.atdc.org).
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