Austin chip designer looks to make mark in wireless world

Jul 28, 2014
Austin American Statesman

An Austin chip designer is about to start playing with the big boys

Nitero, which specializes in wireless products using 60 gigahertz transmissions, recently unveiled a product line that promises to bring a superfast wireless Internet connection to your smartphone

Known as WiGig, the new technology essentially promises wireless connections that are several times faster than most current WiFi ones, albeit at very short ranges. WiFi operates in two main frequency bands, 2.4 gigahertz and 5 gigahertz. WiGig operates at 60 gigahertz, and is estimated to send data three to four times faster than the fastest version of WiFi

Nitero’s CEO Pat Kelly says his company’s chip, which is set to begin volume production next year, differs from competitors because it was built with mobile in mind, from the ground up

It could be a huge market for Nitero — because if the new technology is adopted, the major smartphone makers would presumably all jump on board

This month, wireless chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. said it is buying startup Wilocity, a bet that a high-speed wireless technology will become a standard feature on smartphones and other products

Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Online publication TheMarker in May reported that a deal was imminent, putting the price at $300 million

Wilocity, founded in 2007 and based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is one of a number of companies pursuing WiGig, which operates at a higher frequency than the more familiar WiFi technology and is used in different kinds of applications. But unlike traditional wireless, WiGig broadcasts a much shorter distance (a maximum of several meters) and can’t pass through walls, so it won’t replace regular home WiFi

For example, companies have proposed using WiGig for replacing wires to send video between components in the same room. Amir Faintuch, president of the unit called Qualcomm Atheros, said the technology could help transfer multiple video streams using the new technology called 4K, where Wi-Fi can only handle one

Nitero was founded in 2011 and is headquartered in downtown Austin with design operations in Australia

Since 2011, the company has been growing substantially, Kelly said, and now has about 50 employees. About half of those work in Austin, he said

To date, Nitero has raised $13.7 million from backers including Austin Ventures, Southern Cross Venture Partners and Trailblazer Capital

Nitero’s first product is intended for mobile and display/peripheral devices, with production shipment slated for next year. Product demonstrations are already underway with select partners and customers, none of whom Kelly would name

It will also allow the transmission of extremely high-quality video, known as 4K video. Also known as “Ultra HD,” 4K resolution is a display device or content having horizontal resolution on the order of 4,000 pixels

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