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Chinese startup preps CMOS RF chip, with VC support

Posted: 20 Apr 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wireless device? cmos? rf transceiver? cell phone?

A Shanghai-based communications start-up is slowly unveiling its plan to ride China's large and rapidly growing market for wireless devices.

Using $15 million from private equity firm Warburg Pincus, RDA Microelectronics Inc., is developing an all-CMOS RF transceiver that it is already sampling to local system design houses and domestic cell phone makers.

RDA joins a handful of other China-based companies, including Comlent Inc., Spreadtrum Communications, and Commit Inc., that are developing silicon for China's domestic cellular markets, which at more than 300 million users is the largest in the world.

Companies are developing a range of chips to address the mainstream 2G/2.5 market, and some, such as Comlent, have chips for China's PHS standard. All of the firms say they have their eyes on the 3G market, which should start to develop next year.

RDA said it hopes to grab customers from larger companies by emphasizing a low-cost RF CMOS chip, as well as a deep bench of local support. The firm has 60 employees, with 80 percent to 85 percent in R&D. "Our proposition is really proximity. The local market is huge and will take care of us for the next couple of years. We will be next to the system houses and support the hell out of them," said RDA chief executive Vincent Tai.

Tai said even more local companies are looking at the market for transceivers, but he thought fast growth in the sector would be limited by the availability of engineers. China graduates more than 200,000 engineers (in various disciplines) every year, but those with RF experience are still rare - for instance, several of RDA's main development staff are from the US.

"It's tough to find good RF experienced people in China because it only started recently here. So most of them only graduated a few years ago and are inexperienced, but they seem to be very talented," Tai said.

- Mike Clendenin

EE Times

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