Does the world need 2 Gbps Wi-Fi connections? Rusnano, Bright Capital and several other VCs think it does. They have invested $79 million in Quantenna Communications to build the chips that will make such multi-gigabit wireless local area networks possible.
Quantenna specializes in high-performance Wi-Fi silicon and is already selling its 802.11n chips to router makers like Motorola and NetGear. Utilizing four antennas to deliver four parallel streams of data over the same 5 GHz frequencies, Quantenna boasts it can deliver speeds of 600 Mbps, ideal for supporting multiple HD-streaming video channels in the home — the market the vendor has primarily focused on.
But truly ridiculous speeds will emerge with its next generation chip, which uses the new 802.11ac standard and promises bandwidth as high as 2 GB by aggregating all of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies available for public Wi-Fi. As my colleague Stacey Higginbotham points out a 2 Gbps connection is a bit useless in a home, because no residential broadband connection supports such enormous speed. But once you take the technology out of the home and into the wild there’s a lot more potential for bandwidth mayhem.
Mobile hotspot providers with access to the fiber connections could take advantage of 802.11ac technologies to build commercial Wi-Fi networks with truly stunning levels of broadband capacity. Mobile operators are getting Wi-Fi religion, and chips like Quantenna’s could be used to shunt enormous quantities of traffic off their overtaxed 3G and 4G networks. The key is getting those high-performance chips not just into the routers but also laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Fremont, Calif.,-based Quantenna has already gone through multiple funding rounds, closing a $21 million Series E round in September of 2010. Today’s $79 million oversubscribed round includes its existing major vendors Sequoia Capital, DAG Ventures, Sigma Partners, Southern Cross Venture Partners and Venrock Associates, as well as new investors Rusnano and Bright Capital. Rusnano, which will invest up to $40 million, isn’t just bringing cash, but also a lot of expertise in the form of nanotechnology research. The firm is an arm of the Russian government tasked with investing in and coordinating efforts between Russian nanotechnology ventures.