Altair wins huge WiMAX deal with Japan's Willcom

The deal could be worth tens of million of dollars over the next three years
Shmulik Shelah, Globes [online], 26 May 08   15:27

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Altair Semiconductor Ltd. has won a huge contract to supply its mobile WiMAX chipset to leading Japanese communications operator Willcom Inc. The deal could be worth tens of million of dollars over the next three years. The companies declined to comment on the report. With this deal, Altair is following the script for start-ups to target the Far East rather than North America.
This is Altair's largest deal to date, and can be considered as one of the largest chipset deals ever made by an Israeli start-up, especially in Japan. The company is bidding for more contracts with other Far Eastern telecommunications manufacturers and vendors.

Hod Hasharon-based Altair was founded in 2000 by CEO Oded Melamed, CTO Yigal Bitran, and VP marketing and business development Eran Eshed, all three of whom were former managers at Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN). The three entrepreneurs founded Libit Signal Processing Ltd., which Texas Instruments acquired in 1999 for $360 million.

Altair has developed baseband chipsets designed to be installed in mobile devices that impose strict power consumption, size, and cost requirements on semiconductor content. The company says that its chipsets consume a fifth of the power and are half the size of an ordinary chipset with similar functionality.

The Willcom deal is also interesting because of Altair's readiness. It completed development of its product just six months ago and sent it to tape-out. The prototype was obtained three months ago. A contract at this stage is an achievement.

Altair has 85 employees, mostly at its development center in Ra'anana. According to IVC Online, the company has raised $26 million from BRM Capital, Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), Giza Venture Capital, and Bessemer Capital. Menashe Ezra is Altair chairman.

In December 2007, the Japanese government awarded WiMAX licenses to Willcom and KDDI Corp. (TSE:9433). Willcom wants to launch its service in 2009 and will invest $2 billion (200 billion yen) in it through 2015.

In a separate development, Altair announced on Friday that it would collaborate with access processing semiconductor developer Wintegra Inc. to develop chipsets for both WiMAX and LTE (4G cellular). Wintegra was not active in WiMAX before, but recently amended its strategy to meet demand for it.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on May 26, 2008

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