UK's picoChip wins WiMax deal with China's ICT

UK's picoChip wins WiMax deal with China's ICT

U.K. wireless chip designer picoChip Designs has signed a deal with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Computing Technology (ICT) to help develop the WiMax wireless networking market in China, it said Monday.

ICT is adopting picoChip's WiMax reference designs and PC102 processors so it can develop a WiMax system to sell to local telecommunications providers, the company said. WiMax is a standards-based technology for delivering the last mile of wireless broadband access, serving as an alternative to cable or DSL (digital subscriber line).

PicoChip beat out other players on the ICT bid such as Intel and Analog Devices, according to picoChip's Vice President of Marketing Rupert Baines.

"I believe we are leading the architecture for WiMax," Baines said.

He declined to say how much the deal was worth, but categorized it as "very significant," adding that although it was valued at less than US$1.9 million in the first phase, it would be worth much more once ICT begins selling its system to telecom providers. ICT will begin selling the system to local providers, but could eventually sell it worldwide, Baines added.

Although picoChip is providing a complete WiMax system, ICT will be adding its own algorithm and features to the design, Baines said. PicoChip customers sometimes want to add options such as "smart antennas" that can provide longer range or higher performance, for instance.

The privately held company, based in Bath, England, has no chip factory of its own: Its designs are manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).

Its system is for the fixed WiMax standard, 16d, which is set for certification in the second or third quarters of this year, according to Baines. However, the system is also guaranteed to upgrade to the mobile WiMax standard, 16e, and South Korea's WiBro standard, once they are certified, Baines said.

Both16e and WiBro are on course for certification by mid-2006, Baines said.

PicoChip's ICT win comes just months after the company set up an office in China, where it has been able to liaise with local business and government contacts, Baines said. In addition to the ICT contract, the company's Chinese office has several other deals in the pipeline, he added.

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