Sequans: Breaking into WiMax

Sequans: Breaking into WiMax

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Written By Eric Sandler

This French startup is ready to take the WiMax silicon world by storm, especially with the Korean WiBro flavor, which it says could be the first real test for mobile wireless broadband.

French WiMax startup Sequans Communications is casting itself as David against an industry full of Goliaths—and the tiny company has a strong chance in this new and unpredictable market.

“We’re focusing on fixed and mobile broadband wireless—what’s referred to as IEEE 802.16 or WiMax, or WiBro to the Koreans,” says Bernard Aboussouan, Sequans’ vice president of Marketing and Business Development.

Half of the company’s current roster of 35 employees came from Pacific Broadband, which was acquired by Juniper Networks in 2001. In 2003, Georges Karam, a vice president at Juniper, left the company to create Sequans Communications, which was initially funded with Karam’s own money. Subsequent funding rounds have given Sequans additional financing totaling more than eight million Euros.

Sequans’ aim, Aboussouan says, is to provide the same kinds of chips that Intel, Wavesat, Fujitsu and others are planning to provide for fixed and mobile WiMax. One of the company’s key differentiators is the fact that it will be providing chips both for base stations and for subscriber stations. “We believe it’s very important to work in both ends,” Aboussouan says. “If you look at the success of Broadcom in the cable modem business, it was because they were providing both the CMTS chip and the cable modem chip.”

Similarly, Sequans plans to provide both the PHY (physical) layer and the MAC layer on its WiMax silicon—which Aboussouan says will help to speed development. “When you go to the large equipment vendors like Alcatel or Siemens, the fact that you can provide the whole package of PHY and MAC minimizes their development, so they can come to market with a product much more quickly,” he says.

The company’s third differentiator, Aboussouan says, is the fact that it’s going beyond the mandatory functionality of WiMax to provide optional features that improve quality of service, extend cell coverage, and increase capacity per cell. “That means the economics are a lot better for the operator, so he can have much larger cells—he doesn’t have to deploy as much infrastructure, and the cost per user is smaller,” Aboussouan says.

Sequans is initially focusing on fixed WiMax (802.16-2004), with the aim of working towards mobile 802.16e as quickly as possible as the standard matures. “Our mobile development is initially targeted towards the Korean space—which is WiBro—because we believe that ultimately WiBro is going to be the first deployment of mobile WiMax applications,” Aboussouan says.

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