In the news

Oct 02, 2011

INTERVIEW: Altair Semiconductor to Expand in Emerging Telecom Markets – Telecom Lead

Rashi Varshney

October 1, 2011

Israel-based Altair Semiconductor is heavily investing in the next generation of products, which will be faster, smaller and more powerful. The company’s co-founder and VP of Marketing and Business Development, Eran Eshed speaks about their chipset’s versatility and TDD-LTE and FDD-LTE market

What are Altair’s future expansions and investment plans in India and globally? 

Altair is already a global supplier with offices in India, US, China, Taiwan, Japan and Germany. We are mainly expanding our customer and partner support capacity in order to enable revenue generation. India is a strategic focus market for Altair, we have both sales and engineering support for our customer and carrier partners. As the market ramps we will adjust our support capacity to fit the growing need.

What sort of R&D/innovation is Altair up to? What can we expect to see from Altair down the road? 

We are heavily investing in the next generation of products, which will be faster, smaller and more powerful. As our products are already commercially available, we expect to capture a significantly larger market share in emerging LTE markets around the world over the next year.

What is the key strength of Altair’s chipset architecture? 

Altair’s LTE chipset is based on a unique Software Defined Radio (SDR) processor architecture which is very flexible in transforming silicon feature roadmaps into software feature roadmaps. Altair guarantees that our LTE release 8 chipset, which was released to market more than 1.5 years ago, is release 9 upgradable, this is far from trivial, and (b) it provides an unmatched ratio of performance/power consumption such that we are able to achieve extremely high performance figures through extensive signal processing, and yet not pay the power consumption penalty typical to such processing.

Altair is not the only company that offers flexibility/versatility in our products – this is what most chip vendors achieve by integrating Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) into their products. The trick is how to maintain extremely low power consumption in this versatile environment.

What differentiates Altair’s chipsets from others? 

In addition to the architectural advantages described above, Altair’s chipset is one of the only commercial products that offers combined TDD-LTE and FDD-LTE in a single chipset with a single software image. The range of spectrum bands that we support is also one of the most comprehensive in the market. We cover 700-2700MHz, which pretty much defines all of the applicable LTE frequencies globally. Finally, the chipset is in mass production and has already been deployed in several markets commercially.

Are you happy with the current position within the LTE market? What are your future plans? 

We believe our position is strong and will allow us to capitalize on the growth expected in LTE. We have a large number of customers with shippable products, and we are involved in many operator trials and activities around the globe. Moving forward, we aim to strengthen this position by introducing advanced features from release 9 and 10, and introducing new and enhanced products which offer higher performance, enhanced feature sets and lower cost.

What are the opportunities in the LTE market? 

LTE is the fastest growing wireless market ever. This attracts many players and creates a very competitive environment for chip companies. In order to remain competitive and successful Altair has to maintain our technological edge but at the same time maintain a very low cost structure – after all, some of our more significant markets are very cost sensitive, and the cost of the terminal in such markets has a strong influence on time to profitability for the carrier, and the viability of the service overall. We believe we have a very strong strategy to address these challenges.

What is your pricing strategy for your chipsets? 

Understanding the value that we deliver to the customer, factoring in competitive alternatives and pricing accordingly is our pricing strategy. The key to achieving good profitability is not selling high, it is manufacturing low – I think that we have done a fairly good job in this area. We earn more on every chip we sell than most of our competitors, even if we sell at the same price.

Throughout the world, there appears to be some confusion over interoperability of standards. In your opinion, what do you see as the global standard the majority of the world is leaning towards – FDD-LTE, TDD-LTE or some other standard? Please elaborate.

FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE are two variants of the same 3GPP standard – they are not different as the case was in the GSM vs. CDMA days. Given the spectrum reality globally, TDD and FDD will both exist in large scale. We believe that in order to achieve scale and enable users to roam between networks – in some cases, in different countries, an LTE terminal should support both TDD and FDD. Our chipset/SW solution today does just that, with a zero incremental cost.