Qualcomm to buy Israeli chip maker for $300 million

The multinational chip maker likes Wilocity’s fast WiGig chips, which speed up data transfer on WiFi networks

Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego. (Courtesy CoolCaesar)
Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego. (Courtesy CoolCaesar)

Qualcomm, a leading mobile device chip manufacturer, is set to buy Wilocity, an Israeli start-up, for approximately $300 million, according to Wilocity sources quoted in the media. The deal is likely to be announced in the coming days, the sources said, with employees already informed several weeks ago that Qualcomm planned to buy the company. Neither Qualcomm nor Wilocity would comment publicly.

Qualcomm worked with Wilocity for several years to develop WiGig chipsets for devices, such as phones, tablets and laptops. WiGig (Wireless Gigabit), the brand name given to the more advanced 802.11ad standard by the WiFi Alliance, offers data transfer speeds of up to 7 gigabits per second. Most devices use the 802.11n standard, which transfers data at a speed of between 1 and 1.3 Gbps. WiGig runs on the less crowded 5 GHz band, instead of the 2.4 GHz band that 802.11n devices use.

Wilocity demonstrated its chipsets at CES 2013 and impressed observers with the system’s capabilities, said Tal Tamir, Wilocity’s CEO. The company’s WiGig technology, based on Qualcomm chips, can transfer high-definition video at distances of up to 40 meters with speeds more than 10 times faster than average WiFi transmission rates.

When the deal is finalized, Wilocity will become part of a strong Qualcomm presence in Israel. In 2010, the company bought iSkoot, which started out life developing enhancements for Skype and, in the service of Qualcomm, makes social media apps for At&T (Social Net), Verizon (Social Beat) and T-Mobile (Social Buzz), among others. In 2012, Qualcomm snapped up DesignArt Networks, which develops small cell technology for cellular base stations and wireless backhaul infrastructure. Along with DesignArt, Qualcomm in 2012 bought the assets of Israel’s EPOS, which specialized in digital ultrasound technology, engineered for input uses such as pen, stylus and gesture recognition.

Qualcomm invested in Israeli start-ups via its Qualcomm Ventures funds. The fund has contributed money to eight Israeli start-ups, including companies that specialize in networking and backhaul solutions (Siklu), online shopping solutions (Corrigon) and crowdsourcing mobile consumer apps (Waze). The fund also invested in Wilocity.

On a recent visit to Israel, Irwin M. Jacobs, a co-founder, former chairman and chairman emeritus of Qualcomm, said that Israel was one of the company’s “go-to” places for advanced technology. “Israel’s biggest contributions to mobile technology are designing better ways of controlling things, increasing data rates and enabling us to squeeze more out of existing bandwidth, using technology such as femtocells,” Jacobs said. “In addition, Israelis are developing some wonderful apps, such as apps that can be used for telemedicine, enabling doctors to diagnose and consult with patients remotely.”

Israel has always held an important place in Jacobs’s heart, “both because of my background [Jacobs was born to a Jewish family in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1933] and for professional reasons. Israel is a very admirable country with great universities,” he said. “The kids go to the army and come out very mature, displaying great talent. We’re very pleased to be a part of it, and pleased that Israel is an important part of Qualcomm.”

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