u-blox buys 4G chip startup Cognovo for $16.5m

June 28, 2012 // By Nick Flaherty
Swiss fabless chip designer u-blox is aiming to dominate the market for embedded 4G M2M devices by buying UK software defined radio (SDR) startup Cognovo for $16.5m.

Cognovo’s “Software Defined Modem” (SDM) technology and development tools quickly translate complex radio modem designs into fully characterized low-power semiconductor chips. The combination of technologies from Cognovo and the recently acquired 4M Wireless will result in a new wireless modem platform based on IP owned by u-blox for the 4G M2M market.
Cognovo has 30 staff in Cambridge, UK, and has already demonstrated their SDM baseband chip running high-speed 4G cellular functionality working with the LTE protocol stack from 4M Wireless.
 With these acquisitions, u‑blox lays the groundwork for establishing a leading position in 4G wireless modems similar to the strategy that u-blox followed to become the market leader in GPS/GNSS modules.The acquisition extends u-blox’ chip design capabilities to create differentiated products for strategic markets that require 4G communications combined with global positioning.
“This is a very exciting acquisition for u-blox as it positions us as an agile and cost-effective supplier of high-speed wireless modem products based on our own chip IP. This allows us to meet market demand for connected systems that require positioning, connectivity and application specific functionality on a single integrated circuit,” said Thomas Seiler, CEO of u-blox. “This new foundation broadens our serviceable market, and will increase our margins in the automotive, consumer and industrial sectors. Our first 4G product is planned for 2013.”
The market for 4G modems used for machine-to-machine (M2M) applications is predicted to grow rapidly, surpassing 20 million units by 2016.
“We are very pleased to deploy our SDM technology within u-blox”, said Dr Gordon Aspin, CEO at Cognovo. “With over 300 man-years of R&D invested in our SDM technology, this acquisition brings together the industry’s most advanced software modem development platform with some of the best IC design and GNSS engineers in the world. This will be an unbeatable team.”