HomeChipsetsWi-Fi HaLow champ Morse Micro gets $140m, plus MegaChips gateway to East

Wi-Fi HaLow champ Morse Micro gets $140m, plus MegaChips gateway to East

Australia-based semiconductor company Morse Micro, developing Wi-Fi HaLow for low-power mid-range IoT solutions, has raised $140 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Japan-based chip services company MegaChips, with participation also from existing investors, including Blackbird Ventures, Main Sequence Ventures, Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Skip Capital, Uniseed, SpringCapital, and Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull.

The Turnbulls are, respectively, former Australian prime minister and former Sydney lord mayor; they have started investing in earnest during the past three years, with a focus on technology and cyber-security. The new Series B round dwarfs the $30 million so far raised by Sydney-based Morse Micro, which includes $13 million from a late-2020 Series A round. The deal with MegaChips is attended by a “strategic partnership” to “usher in a new era for Wi-Fi HaLow”.

Wi-Fi HaLow (802.11ah) uses sub-GHz spectrum frequencies in global ISM bands, between 850 MHz and 950 MHz. These offer advantages over the unlicensed 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, where Wi-Fi traditionally plays, insofar as the spectrum is less congested and lower frequency, improving reliability, propagation, and coverage. As a consequence, the HaLow version makes Wi-Fi viable effectively for lower-power wider-area IoT cases.

Fans of the technology – Morse Micro, for starters – claim it offers a 10-times advance in terms of range, compared with conventional Wi-Fi. The latest marketing also suggests a 100-times advance in terms of coverage area, and 1,000-times advance in terms of coverage volumes. Use cases for Wi-Fi HaLow “extend across the complete IoT ecosystem, from consumer to commercial, industrial to agricultural use”, said Morse Micro.

Wi-Fi HaLow offers multi-vendor interoperability by using existing Wi-Fi protocols, making it compatible with other Wi-Fi Alliance certified products, and the same security and setup as existing Wi-Fi solutions. It straddles the line between low-power short-range technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Zigbee, and the traditional low-power wide-area networking (LPWAN) set, including LoRaWAN, NB-IoT, and Sigfox.

Morse Micro, founded in 2016, is the author of the first chip for Wi-Fi HaLow, and an official Wi-Fi HaLow testbed vendor to drive availability of the 802.11 ah certification project in the Wi-Fi Alliance. Twelve months ago, it was releasing system-on-chip (SoC) and module samples to select developers, with a view to raise interest in the Low standard among the IoT developer community.

Presently, its Wi-Fi HaLow portfolio includes the “industry’s smallest, fastest and lowest power Wi-Fi HaLow compliant system on chips (SoCs) and modules,” it said. The new Series B funds will go to “achieving unprecedented scale and demand for its Wi-Fi HaLow technology,” said Morse Micro. The strategy, it said, is to “deepen its offerings, including the design of new solutions, while accelerating the go-to-market strategy”.

The deal with new investor MegaChips, which offers services for application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and SoCs, will see the Japanese firm manufacture Morse Micro’s semiconductors and modules. MegaChips will also provide quality assurance, sales support, and new distribution channels in the East Asia region.

Michael de Nil, co-founder and chief executive officer at Morse Micro, said: “With MegaChips’ financial backing and robust manufacturing and sales support, Morse Micro will be poised to achieve our goal of revolutionising IoT connectivity with our growing portfolio of Wi-Fi HaLow SoCs, modules, software and development tools. With growing market traction for Wi-Fi HaLow-compliant solutions in the IoT ecosystem, we’re at an exciting inflection point.”

Tetsuo Hikawa, president and chief executive at MegaChips, said: “MegaChips pursues strategic partnerships and investments with promising startups like Morse Micro that have innovative ideas, cutting-edge applications, and are expanding their businesses in areas such as industrial IoT, wireless communications, and energy control. Morse Micro’s management team has had a tremendous impact on the Wi-Fi industry, and we expect more great accomplishments to come as we work together to ramp production and sales of their flagship Wi-Fi HaLow products.”

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