Signalchip unveils India's first semiconductor chips for 4G/5G connectivity

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Bengaluru-based fabless semiconductor company, Signalchip, on Tuesday unveiled India’s first semiconductor chips for 4G/LTE and 5G NR modems, which would enable high-speed wireless communication. These chips put India into an elite group of countries that own this widely used fundamental technology. The series of chips, code-named ‘Agumbe’ (a small village located in Shimoga district in Karnataka) are the result of over eight years of research and development by Signalchip engineers.

 
 
Currently, in India, all devices and infrastructure, whether imported or domestically manufactured, use imported silicon chips. Silicon chip design is a very challenging activity requiring high-cost R&D, deep knowhow and mastery of multiple complex domains. Hence, this technology is not available in most countries. “Given that wireless communication is central to almost all economic, strategic and domestic activities happening today, the ability to indigenously design and develop silicon chips is vital for the security and prosperity of our country,” said Himamshu Khasnis, founder and CEO of Signalchip, which unveiled four chips. An alumnus of IIT-Madras, Khasnis founded the firm in 2010 after working at technology companies such as TI and Ittiam and grew the garage startup with two people to a 40 people organization.

 
 
India aspires to take a leadership role in developing inclusive 5G technologies (the fifth-generation mobile network) for “economic self-sufficiency and strategic needs of the country,” said Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan . “These chips are a significant step in this direction as they have the potential to cater to the growing digital connectivity needs of the next 5 billion users, by enabling high-performance mobile networks at lower cost,” added Sundararajan.

 
 
These chips also support positioning using India’s own satellite navigation system, NAVIC. The combined multi-standard system-on-chip (SoC) can serve as a base station chipset for a wide range of form factors from low-cost indoor small cells to high-performance base stations. Through the IPs created for this device, the company now has the potential to design products for multiple related fields and is currently forging ahead with additional chipsets for advanced 5G NR features. With India having more than 1.1 billion mobile phones in use, one of the highest in the world, Signalchip has created high performance and cost-efficient systems to enable densification of the network.

 
 
“I am happy to know a major technical advancement where in chipsets for a high-end technology for communication are made in India,” said Rajat Moona, Director, IIT Bhilai. He earlier headed country's Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC). “This is a major milestone for the country, both for the semiconductor chip design as well as the competency in the mobile technology,” said Dr Moona.

 
 
The Signalchip team was mentored and funded by Sridhar Vembu, founder and CEO of Zoho, the Chennai-based cloud software company. The company was also guided by an elite set of professors at IIT Madras in the field of complex analog/RF design.

 
“India has always had the talent required to build any technology. We just need to be patient and have enough capital to put it all together. It's a long-term commitment,” said Sridhar Vembu, founder of Zoho. He also said that through smart planning and relentless efforts, Signalchip has acquired the capability required to create any complex and globally competitive silicon chip, indigenously from India. “Only long-term R&D can make Indian companies globally competitive,” he added.

 

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