TMYTEK Recently raised a series A + round of about $ 10 million for products that make it easier to test 5G millimeter wave equipment. So far, the company’s customers include KDDI, NTT DOCOMO and Research Institute. But Taiwanese startups have aspirations to sell their base stations, competing with well-established players such as Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung and Huawei. TMYTEK planned to use its expertise, helping other researchers develop the 5G infrastructure that its chief executive described as a “complete 5G industrial chain”.
Its latest funding round was led by Inventec, manufacturing partner of TMYTEK, one of Taiwan’s largest OEMs, bringing the total funding of startups to $ 13.3 million to date. Other investors included Taisic Materials, ITEQ, Tamagawa Electronics and Taiwan’s National Development Fund. TMYTEK also recently participated in Sparklabs Taipei’s accelerator program.
Co-founder and CEO Su-Wei Chang told TechCrunch that it plans to pursue a Series B to develop and commercialize its base stations. To get ready for its base station business, TMYTEK recently joined O-Rann Alliance, A bid to encourage the development and rapid deployment of new technology has been established by some of the world’s largest telecoms to create more inter-mobile networks.
Chang said TMYTEK’s base in Taiwan gives it a strategic advantage. 5G manufacturing with exports is an important part of Taiwan’s economy Reached record highs during the second half of 2020Thanks to the demand for 5G-related devices and technology for smartphones, autonomous vehicles and smart devices.
Chang studied at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and when TMYTEK was founded six years ago, he was often asked why he did not live in the United States, where it would have been easy to secure startup funding. But being in Taiwan, the company is close to several key markets, including Japan, where 30% of its current business comes from, and gives TMYTEK a good foundation to expand into the US and European markets, he said.
It has also given the company a supply chain advantage. TMYTEK has manufacturing partners across Asia, including Inventec in Taiwan and China, as well as factories in Vietnam and Thailand. Chang said this meant that TMYTEK was not limited to the COVID-19 epidemic or the US-China trade war.
Prior to launching TMYTEK in 2014, both Chang and co-founder Ethan Lin worked at Academia Sinica, one of Taiwan’s top research institutes, where they focused on millimeter waves, even though most researchers at the time Mid-band was more interested in the spectrum.
But as more devices and applications began to crowd out 4G spectrum, mmWave became less niche. Together Qualcomm launched Next generation 5G mmWave hardware and The chips, MmWave is set to become mainstream, introducing more carrier mmWave coverage.
Millimeter waves provide powerful signals with wide bandwidth and low latency, but shortcomings include the difficulty of traveling through obstacles such as buildings. It also has a limited range, which is why millimeter waves require more base stations. Beamerforming, which directs the signal toward a specific device, and an antenna array, or multiple antennas that act like a single antenna, are used to increase its coverage.
Developing MmWave faster
One of the main challenges for the millimeter wave market, however, is the lack of R&D tools to speed up their growth and market, resulting in higher costs and slower deployment.
To keep up with market opportunities, TMYTEK transitioned from design and manufacturing projects to offer customers a 5G-centric solution, such as BBG, for a “beamforming box”. A professor at National Taiwan University, BBox, told Chang that his team was working on antenna design, but did not have the resources to work on beamforming technology. This lets researchers create 16 beams and control the amplitude and phase of the signal with software, so they can test how it works more quickly with antennas and other hardware. TMYTEK claims that BBox can save researchers and engineers up to 80% in time and cost.
Chang said TMYTEK felt that if researchers at NTU, one of Taiwan’s largest research universities, needed a solution, other labs did as well. So far, it has given 30 sets to companies including KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, Fujitsu, several Fortune 500 companies and research institutes.
While BBox was created for antenna designers, the company began looking for solutions to help other designers, including algorithm developers, who want to test beam tracking, communicate with base stations and collect data.
For that scenario, TMYTEK created XBeam, described as a “total solution” and intended for the mass production phase, test modules, smartphones, and base stations that they are in before they shipped. Traditional solutions for test modules rely on mechanical rotators, but Chang said it is more suited to the research and development process. XBeam, which is based on BBox, scans the beam electronically instead. The company claims that XBeam is 20 times faster than other test solutions.
TMYTEK made a prototype of XBeam in 2019 and launched a commercialized version in November 2020.
Chang said BBox and XBeam will help TMYTEK build its base station business in two ways. First, having their own solutions will allow TMYTEK to test base stations and market them faster. Second, the startup hopes that building a reputation on effective research and development tools will help it market its base stations for private and public networks. This is particularly important for TMYTEK’s ambitions as their base stations will be up against products from major players such as Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung and Huawei.
“Our advantage at TMYTEK is that we are designing and we have good partners for manufacturing. Inventec, our investor, is a top five manufacturer in Taiwan, ”he said. “And TMYTEK also builds our own test solutions, so we value that we can provide a total solution to our customers.”