GoingWiMAX.com had the opportunity to interview Eran Eshed , Co-founder and Vice-President of Marketing and Business Development at Altair Semiconductor, a leading provider of ultra-low power, small footprint, and high performance 4G chips for WiMAX, LTE, and XGP.
1) What is Altair’s main focus in the 4G world?
Altair offers a wide range of 4G solutions for mobile WiMAX, LTE and XGP. Our mobile WiMAX baseband processor – the FourGee® 2150 – was actually our first product to market back in 2008. Since then, we’ve also released a number of LTE-focused products including a baseband processor, RF transceiver and an ExpressCard which is used for product and interoperability testing.
2) What are the hottest items in your product portfolio?
Right now, we’re seeing a lot of demand for our LTE baseband processor, the FourGee®-3100 and the FourGee®-6200 multiband LTE RFIC chipset. At the same time, the FourGee®-2150 mobile WiMAX baseband processor has also been quite popular. In fact, a few months ago we announced that the chip was chosen by Taiwan’s MiTAC for its navigation device, MiBuddy.
3) Where do you see the future of 4G going in 2010?
The two main technologies in this market are, of course, mobile WiMAX and LTE. WiMAX continues to develop at a fairly moderate pace, and we expect to see the leading carriers rolling out additional markets on a global scale. WiMAX devices and applications will still remain mostly PC and computing centric.
At the same time, LTE is starting to mature but 2010 is expected to mainly be a trial and interoperability testing year, with several “soft launches” by providers like Verizon Wireless and NTT DoCoMo in Japan. We expect to see volumes starting to ramp in 2011, and significant shipments in 2012. But 2010 is a pivotal year for 4G in general and how these trials, tests and soft launches go will no doubt dictate what happens in the next 2-5 years.
4) What products, companies, innovations do you see failing or succeeding and why?
I see a lot of promise in handheld devices that encompass multiple functions and capabilities. The best example available today is the iPhone, of course, but in the future as 4G networks roll out, I think these devices will be able to do even more. Imagine, being able to have one device for music, taking photos and videos, email, phone and SMS communications, web browsing, GPS navigation, video conferencing and even controlling the appliances and electronics in your home. Some of this is possible today but I expect in the coming years with the evolution of 4G, the technology will grow in leaps and bounds.
At the same time, these types of all-in-one devices negate the need for individual MP3 players, cameras, GPS systems, etc. It will be interesting to see how companies across the electronics industry keep their standalone devices relevant in the face of iPhone-like handhelds.
5) How long did it take Altair to build a WiMAX-enabled chip? How much research was involved?
We began development on the FourGee®-2150 WiMAX baseband process in early 2006 and then the product was launched in mid-2008. So we spent roughly two years on intensive software and hardware development to ensure the chip was as power efficient and effective as possible.
6) What kind of impact do you see a WiMAX/LTE-enabled chip having on the 4G industry?
Altair’s FourGee®-3100 supports both WiMAX and LTE, however we think the combination of WiMAX and LTE in a single chip (or in a single device for that matter) isn’t a mainstream need. There are few carriers which are deploying WiMAX in a mobility/portability use case, and they would be the only ones that due to a potentially spotty coverage would want to roam into LTE coverage areas. So while there is certainly a benefit, we think having standalone chips for each technology is more important.