July 8, 2010
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Startup Altair Semiconductor has booked the first public design win for its Long Term Evolution cellular chips to module maker IPWireless who is providing external USB modems to an unnamed wireless OEM. The sale primes the pump of a client market expected to ramp in 2011.
IPWireless (San Francisco) “will develop products starting with a tri-band USB dongle for frequencies used in Europe and Asia,” said Eran Eshed, founder and vice president of marketing for Altair. “This is their first product in a portfolio that will include a variety of LTE modules” using Altair chips, he said.
Altair hopes to announce a series of new customers for its two-chip FourGee 3100 baseband and FourGee 6200 RF LTE set that will be in production later this year.
Altair started sampling its chip set in September after one silicon revision. “We’re completing interoperability testing with infrastructure vendors now, and it’s a very lengthy and tedious process,” Eshed said.
Carriers such as Verizon and NTT DoCoMo are expected to turn on some of the first LTE services late this year. They will initially focus on high-speed data applications for mobile PC users.
The LTE market “is mostly about trials this year with real commercial deployments I can count on one hand,” said Eshed. “The total market for LTE chip sets this year is probably several hundred thousand units, rising to a couple million next year,” he said.
ABI Research reported that to date 132 network operators have reported trials or plans to launch LTE commercially. But it said in a recent research note that “2011 will be the year when LTE goes live in a big way.”
Although LTE is expected to be the successor to 3G cellular systems, WiMax is still a competitor. Yota, a Russian carrier expected to be an early leader in WiMax, recently switched plans now supporting LTE. Nevertheless, ABI estimates 188 WiMax networks are now in trial or commercial operation worldwide.
Meanwhile, carriers continue to upgrade their current 3G systems. As of March 2010, more than 41 network operators had trials or commercial launches of the HSPA+ version of WCDMA networks, ABI said.