U-Blox acquires Cognovo in LTE chip push

Contact: Thejeswi Venkatesh

U-Blox has announced the acquisition of UK-based software-defined-modem designer Cognovo for $16.5m in cash. Switzerland-based U-Blox, best known for designing GPS receiver modules, will combine baseband chip technology from Cognovo with the 4G stack from 4M Wireless, a company it bought in April for $9m. The combined technology will further its push toward gaining market share in LTE chips. Growthpoint Technology Partners advised Cognovo.

Cognovo was founded in early 2009 and is based in Cambridge. Shortly after its founding, chip giant ARM Holdings handed over its Vector Signal Processor (VSP) technology to Cognovo in exchange for a 15% equity stake in the company. ARM also provided convertible debt financing to Cognovo and held a seat on the target’s board.

In recent months, the explosion in smartphones has set off a race for spectrum that has resulted in the fragmentation of frequency bands and wireless technologies. Each band requires specific chip and antenna support, making it difficult for phone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung to support all bands without compromising on cost and performance.

Cognovo helps overcome this problem by defining wireless modem functionality in the form of a software program that is independent of hardware design. To help meet mobile phone power-consumption requirements, Cognovo uses VSP, which provides an architecture and instruction set that is optimized for wireless algorithms.