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May - 2009 - issue > Top 10 most promising technology companies
Wavesat-Taking-a-lead-on-4G
Christo Jacob
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Forget 3G; it’s now time to think 4G. While all the service providers like Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, Clearwire, and AT&T are thinking big on 4G – securing a 3G or 4G market position by attracting consumers early with a new level of service; equipment manufacturers and vendors such as Samsung, Nortel Networks, Alcatel, and Nokia-Siemens Networks are becoming increasingly active in mobile wireless broadband. But, the Canadian chip firm Wavesat, a provider of advanced semiconductor solutions to the world’s leading carrier and mobile device manufacturers to deploy future-proof broadband services and products, is well ahead in terms of technology. Founded in 1993, as a satellite communications company, Wavesat has for the past 9 years focused solely on OFDM and OFDMA technology giving it a very strong foundation in 4G. The company now makes multi-protocol chip sets that can process signals from a variety of 4G cellular networks that are compatible with wireless radio protocols such as WiMAX, Wave2, XG-PHS, and LTE and has already taken a lead.

Wavesat developed amplifiers for satellite communication and that is where ‘Wavesat’ takes its origin. “Five years later, when WiMAX buzz was all around and the confusions about deployment of Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) protocols was looming large, Wavesat had already been producing OFDMA solutions for several years unlike its competitors,” says Raj Singh, CEO, Wavesat. OFDMA standards were adopted in the military point-to-point deployments and Wavesat developed chips for the same and already had the first OFDM chip in the market. “And it was easy for us to go for WiMAX deployments,” adds Singh.

Since the company had very relevant and sophisticated algorithmic experience, which met the needs of the 4G technology market, Wavesat mathematicians and physicists were able to adapt easily to a standards-based 4G world. This unique legacy and deep understanding of real world OFDM andOFDMA deployments has provided Wavesat with an ability to bring innovative technology solutions to the market in 4G. “Our history in non-line of sight deployments has been invaluable in helping us provide leading edge 4G carrier class solutions in some very difficult operating environments,” says Singh. The company has been there for the last 14 years and that is where Wavesat wins the confidence of service providers and vendors.

Strategy
When Singh joined Wavesat, he repositioned the company with a focus on 4G, rolling out 4G products  16d and 16e chips. The company also tweaked its products so that it could run on multiple protocols. This move helped it go to the market in multiple geographies and Singh could discover Japan as their key market, which is technologically sophisticated and demanding. Wavesat’s Odyssey 4G multi-protocol architecture was selected by several leading Taiwanese companies including, Compal, Quanta, and USI for mobile and fixed WiMAX devices. Also Willcom, a large wireless network operator in Japan, uses Wavesat to help develop XG-PHS (a Japanese 4G standard) user equipment.

Unlike its competitors, Singh is very keen on evangelizing Wavesat’s technology. The company understands what the carriers’ expectations are and is able to have deep technical and commercial conversations with the system makers to adopt the technologies that are fit for the market needs. Unlike the other players, Wavesat encourages the entire eco-system, believing that the end usage of the 4G technology provides the best input into the design criteria of the system makers. Singh believes that there is a need to convince the carriers about the technology and the features of the chips used by the system makers. This will help the system vendors to adopt a chipset that is in line with the carriers’ expectation and help both the vendors and Wavesat to win the contracts. Unless the carriers are convinced by the features and adopt and evangelize it, Wavesat as well as its competitors cannot rely only on the system vendors and survive in the market. But Singh confidently says, “Even though all our competitors have WiMAX 4G chips today, Wavesat is the only one that has taken the step to a multiple protocol strategy allowing a single silicon platform to run WiMAX, XG-PHS, and LTE.”

Multiple Protocols Vs standard WiMAX Chips
For the system makers, it would help them cutting down the R&D cost. If a system vendor adopts multiple protocols, it would help him in going to multiple markets and not having to rethink about customizing it for each market. On the other hand, from the carrier’s viewpoint, if there is a variation in the protocol announced by the WiMAX forum, they need to re-jig the entire system. For instance, many players like Clearwire and Verizon are planning to extend their 4G networks using LTE technology in the U.S. extensively. If there are sudden variations in protocol, various chipset providers like Runcom Technologies and Beceem Communications that develop OFDMA chips need to create new versions of their silicon to comply with the new version of the standard. And that is where Wavesat’s chip with multiple protocols takes the lead. The software’s programmable PHY provides an easy transition path for upgrading to new versions of the standard. So a WiMAX subscriber in the U.S. always has a possibility to roam between GSM and other technology. But Wavesat’s chip provides gateways that allow the consumer to roam between the technologies while he still has 4G, which benefits the vendors, carriers, and the consumer market.

The Road Map Ahead
The company is witnessing a positive response subsequent to showcasing its Odyssey multi-protocol architecture products at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Singh says, “We have already grabbed a significant percentage of the market share.” Singh’s 25 years of international business experience has helped Wavesat to take into a vertical growth trajectory. He was a founder, Executive VP, and General Manager at 3Dlabs until its acquisition by Creative Technology (Nasdaq:CREAF) in 2002. Endowed with a Midas touch, Singh has an aspiration to grow the company into a multi billion-dollar organization. Having reached a mature stage with 85 employees, Wavesat looks forward to go public within the next three years.
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