New Muscle Hits the 802.11a Beach
March 25, 2002
Bermai is sprinting out of stealth mode with pockets lined with cash and its head loaded with brains - aiming high for the gold medal in 802.11a chip development.
When Bermai Inc., announces itself officially tomorrow (Tuesday), it will likely not remain an unknown entity in the increasingly competitive wireless chip set industry for long. Bermai, which has been in stealth mode since its inception in March, 2001, plans to take the 802.11 industry by storm, armed with significant stashes of VC funding and a seemingly awesome vault of intellectual property. The company's mission is to develop a complete single-chip OFDM on CMOS system for 802.11a. According to the company, its solution will have better range, better performance, less susceptibility to interference, and a significantly reduced Bill of Materials (BOM).
Bermai's series A funding round of $15 million was co-led by Mobius Venture Capital, Blueprint Ventures, and Advanced Technology Ventures. The company has established a corporate headquarters and an R&D lab.
Bermai's announcement is basically that it's here - and it's here to win, at least in terms of launching single-chip OFDM on CMOS systems for WLANs based on 802.11a. It's not that CEO Bruce Sanguinetti thinks he's Captain James T. Kirk on the Starship Enterprise going where no man has gone before. Everyone knows that the 802.11a chip space is a battlefield with several players already massing troops, making plans, and even sampling chips. Atheros and Intersil are the big boys, with smaller outfits like Synad, Sytemonic, Resonext, and IceFyre trying to get a piece of the golden pie.Sanguinetti, a former Breezecom CEO, told 802.11-Planet that one of the things that makes Bermai unique in its quest to conquer is that it has a "very unique technology brain trust." What Sanguinetti is referring to is the core team at Bermai which includes six Ph.D.'s and, in the company's words, over 500 years of combined business, wireless, and semiconductor-related experience. Hyperbole aside, it is a fact that Bermai Inc. itself was founded by industry veterans Dr. Ramesh Harjani and Dr. Jaekyun Moon - recognized experts in the fields of DSP and analog RF on CMOS. The company now employs more than 40 engineers, and, according to Sanguinetti, is currently assembling a sales and marketing team. The company has also filed 21 patents relating to the technology.
Sanguinetti told us that in terms of their OFDM chip, the company has focused on three primary areas that it deems critical. "Our single-chip OFDM on CMOS solutions will be the most highly integrated, providing for the absolute lowest BOM count and cost, and will establish new standards for range/coverage, power efficiency, and data-rate." Aside from integration, Sanginetti said that the coverage and range of their 802.11a OFDM product should "equal the best of 802.11b." The third issue the team hyperfocused on is power consumption. Bermai is trying to bring chip power consumption levels down to levels acceptable for the development of embedded 802.11a solutions. Bermai is also preparing for the need to make its chip part of a solution that is backwards compatible with 802.11b and 802.11g. It is initially focusing on the 802.11a chip design.
Bermai may be just emerging from stealth mode, but it has big plans for rapid action. The company's prototype design has already won an award, and Sanguinetti told 802.11a that unlike some other competitors out there, Bermai plans to move from announcing completion of an initial chip to actual sampling of the product with little or no time in between.
Wes Raffel, general partner at VC firm ATV, summed up Bermai's entry into the market quite succinctly: "There are other 802.11a solutions, but none have the clear competitive advantages of integration, optimization and performance that Bermai has with their single chip OFDM on CMOS systems."
Matthew Peretz is Managing Editor of 802.11-Planet.com