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Intel and Qualcomm make LTE modem buys

Infineon buys Blue Wonder ahead of takeover by Intel, Sandbridge goes to Qualcomm


Published: 4 November, 2010

READ MORE: M&A | Qualcomm | Infineon Technologies | Semiconductor | LTE

Rising prosperity among major chip vendors, and the dash for an LTE position, is driving a wave of M&A. Broadcom has acquired 4G baseband maker Beceem and femtocell specialist Percello, and now Intel and Qualcomm have made their own purchases in the LTE modem space.

Infineon's wireless unit, which is in the process of being acquired by Intel, is taking over Blue Wonder Communications of Germany. Founded in 2008, it provides IP for LTE modems and while it has no public customers, it claims to have orders for its technology and had worked with Infineon WLS since its formation. It uses multiple Tensilica DSP cores for its architecture and completed a funding round last year.

"Blue Wonder's special LTE knowhow complements the long standing LTE development activities of WLS. Infineon WLS will take over all the employees of Blue Wonder Communications. Both parties have agreed not to disclose the price or further details of the transaction," said a spokesman.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm is reported to have acquired Sandbridge, a pioneer in software programmable baseband chips. Like Icera, it was using this capability to carve out an early position in LTE, but unlike the UK firm, it was caught in a common dilemma for a pioneer - gaining design wins in vendors' test devices, because its software base allowed supporters like investor Samsung to create pre-commercial LTE products very quickly, but then losing out to the majors for mass market, real world launches. In 2009, many trial devices were based on the Sandbridge processor, but for real world economics, vendors have been moving towards lower cost, simpler chipsets.

New York-based Sandbridge was founded in 2001 as a fabless chip company to develop a software defined processor design for baseband and multimedia processing in 3G and 4G handsets. Qualcomm is reported by analyst Will Strauss of Forward Concepts to have paid $55m for the firm, though it may not officially announce the buy, since it will not have a material impact on the giant's finances. This is a good price for a firm without a significant socket for its 4G chip but like previous Qualcomm buys like Flarion, the main interest is in patents, IP and engineers, rather than the actual product.

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