LONDON --- Five experienced engineers and executives, including former Broadcom staff and the past managing director of Altera in Europe have received $10 million for their start-up fabless chip company, which they claim has made a "breakthrough" in developing a new class of processor for wireless terminal devices.
The company, Icera Semiconductor Ltd., was formed in April 2002 by Stan Boland and Simon Knowles, previously of DSL company Element 14 Ltd., and Nigel Toon, previously vice president and managing director Europe for Altera Corp.
Boland, who cofounded Element 14 from the ashes of an Acorn Computers engineering team and subsequently moved with the company when he sold it to Broadcom Corp. for $600 million, is president and chief executive officer of Icera; Toon holds the position of vice president of sales and marketing; and Knowles is vice president of silicon.
The other executives are Steve Allpress, vice president of wireless sys tems, who was previously with Lucent, Bell Labs and Broadcom and Steve Felix, a full custom chip designer who worked for Digital Equipment on the Alpha microprocessor.
The company expects to create a chip design team in the Bristol area in the west of England over the next several months.
"Icera has an outstanding founding team bringing together a wealth of engineering and marketing expertise and experience in creating successful start-ups," said Boland "Unlike the last industry cycle which was driven by infrastructure build-out, this coming one will be driven by devices that connect to this infrastructure, and that's where we are focused," he added.
So far company's technology base has been discussed with potential investors and potential customers executives said, but Boland and Toon declined to reveal details to SBN.
When asked what deficiencies beset today's processors for terminals Boland said: "Performance at low power. Element 14 had a completely soft modem and that was a great advantage to help Broadcom get design wins. There is an opportunity to do some similar stuff in terminals." Toon added: "We've spoken to potential customers and they said that if we can deliver on our ideas we can revolutionize the way terminals are built."
"You can say that ours will be softer than the average [terminal] solution," said Boland.
Although software-programmable solutions are usually the most flexible approach to embedded systems they are often not sufficiently power-efficient, leading most contemporary designs to be a hybrid of software-programmable RISC, software-programmable DSP and hardware acceleration of more intensive tasks.
When asked if parallel processing had a part to play in Icera's technology, Boland said: "Not in the traditional sense, VLIW or SIMD, not the transputer," referring to different approaches to parallelism within single processors and among many processors.
Toon said that the company was happy pursuing a market that was already crowded. "We like the idea of going after a large market, even if it is crowded. Our technology is going to work in a lot of different markets and we are looking to start in markets where there is going to be lot of structural change."
Icera's investors are Atlas Venture and Benchmark Capital. Atlas contributed to the formation of Element 14 and is likely to have been amply rewarded for its risk-taking when Element 14 was sold to Broadcom.