Sony announced today that they reached an agreement to purchase Altair Semiconductor, an Israel-based company that owns and produces LTE modem technology. Sony purchased Altair for $212 million USD with an expected closing date in early February.
With the acquisition, Sony will likely shift to using Altair produced LTE modems in their smartphones as they will be an “in-house” source. Sony notes that the impact on their business will extend well beyond smartphones though. Sony is looking ahead to growth in two big areas – the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables – where they see increasing demand for LTE connectivity.
Sony says Altair’s designs are already low power consumption solutions. Sony hopes to combine their modem designs with Sony sensing technology like GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) and their image sensor technology to produce cellular-connected component devices.
Besides incorporating Altair’s technology into their own products, there is a good chance Sony sees an opportunity to produce chips for use by other manufacturers. Sony already has a robust image sensor business and sees their sensors used in cameras by many other companies. They would likely welcome the chance to build a similar business in the market for wireless modem chips.
Altair was founded in 2005 by former Texas Instruments employees. They only produce LTE chips which they say makes their solutions cheaper as they are not burdened with additional costs to support 3G.