Bristol start-up Blu Wireless Technology is ramping up its 60GHz development for multi gigabit WiFi and 4G MetroCell wireless backhaul markets after changing its business model and closing a series of deals with semiconductor and system companies.
Previously a traditional fabless company, BWT ‘pivoted’ its business model earlier this year to instead become a supplier of System IP (SIP) for gigabit communication applications using the unlicensed 60GHz band. This has converted what had previously been Blu Wirelesses’ competitors into potential customers and resulted in multiple contracts, says CEO Henry Nurser. The company aims to expand to over 30 engineers over the next year to deliver its Hybrid Defined Radio Architecture (HYDRA) massively parallel baseband technology to its customers.
The company has applied for 15 patents and its customers are already developing chips for wireless data and video links. “Our HYRDA architecture is currently sized to address the existing 7Gbps WiGig standard but is scalable to 20Gbps and above”, said Nurser.”We think that this should be enough for the next few years.”
“We have confronted some extremely challenging technical problems over the last two years in a very difficult financial environment,” he added. “After a lot of heartache we are now convinced that we have developed a product and business model that works for us, our investors and the end customers.”
The key has been to have a solution to the customers’ overall system design problems in 60GHz, rather than just providing one isolated IP block. “It’s great timing for the SIP business model for gigabit wireless baseband,” he said. “There’s a buzz building around 60GHz via the WiGig Alliance’s promotions as well as the need for a low cost 4G MetroCell backhaul solution, and many companies just don’t have the skills and time to develop this difficult technology in house. Although we can – via partnerships for 60GHz RF – do a complete turnkey chip design for a customer, we anticipate most of our customers will just want to license our baseband SIP. “
Nurser is looking for a mix of new graduates and experienced engineers wanting to get involved in the technology. “We are interested in engineers both from start-ups, and also those who have been exposed to the technical IP standards associated with a large company,” he said. “There are a lot of hidden talent in large IDMs and fabless companies who are looking for an opportunity to show their creativity in a start-up environment, and there’s been a lot of upheaval in these companies over the last few years.”
But training the next generation of engineers is also important for both the company and the long term health of the industry he says. “We need to balance our team with recent graduates as well,” he said. “I definitely want young engineers in the team willing to challenge some of the assumptions of the more experienced – and greyer – ones.”