Business Journal

Alantro banking on high-speed modem technology

The Business Journal, 2/23/98
By Lori Houston, Staff Reporter

SANTA ROSA - The stream of emerging digital communications technologies is outpacing the markets in which to realize them. That phenomenon has created its own business opportunity for startup Alantro communications.

Founded last August, Alantro communications designs and builds high-performance transmission elements for high-speed modems in the cable, xDSL, and wireless industries.

"Modem technology involves many layers of technologies that are often developed and produced by multiple entities," explains president and co-founder Eric Rossin, PhD, who spent two years with Next Level Communications in Rohnert Park doing high-level custom chip design before going the startup route.

"Our expertise lies in the physical layer of modem transmission called the PHY. At different levels, standards have to be created so different pieces of communications equipment can talk to each other. Alantro both designs existing PHYs and is involved in defining new PHYs. We are both broad and narrow: broad in the sense that we're aimed at a lot of different market areas, but narrow in that we're focused on the PHY. We're not beholden to how fast one particular modem technology gets to market."

Dr. Rossin cites the cable modem as an example. "It was invented in 1991, but market implementation is just now gathering steam,"he says.

Finding qualified talent

Alantro co-founder and IEEE fellow Chris Heegard, was instrumental in inventing the PHY for the current cable modem standards J83b and MCNS, according to Dr. Rossin. Prof. Heegard, who is now Alantro's CEO and chief technology officer, taught at Cornell University where Dr. Rossin completed his advanced degrees.

Now a four-person company, including third partner Scott Petler, Alantro expects to add as many as 12 more engineering and administrative personnel by the end of the year.

"Like a lot of high-tech companies, the opportunities we have are unlimited," Dr. Rossin says. "Our problems will solely consist of finding qualified technical talent."

Corporate partners

Since Alantro's emphasis will remain engineering, the company plans to fund continued growth by seeking corporate partners for equity financing, Dr. Rossin says.

"The company has been self-funded to date, and we're trying to avoid the pure venture capital route. Corporate valuations tend to be better, because companies can see the value we can add to their products. It's quantifiable to them."

Contracts with corporate partners have already generated enough revenue for the company to lease 2,962sf at 141 Stony Circle, which it took in January.

For more information, call 707-521-3063 or visit Alantro Communications.

The Business Journal, Sonoma/Marin, 2/23/98 issue, p.1 Reprinted with permission.

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