In four years, multi-gigabit pipes to the home

Amir Nayyerhabibi, co-founder and CEO of San Jose-based Cortina Systems, knows that with silicon anything, well almost anything can be done. On his to-do-list is building chips that in three years make it possible for consumers to get a whopping 2.5 gigabits per second connections to the home.

I know, given that most of us are lucky to get a megabit/second these days, but Nayyerhabibi is not deterred. He sees the market for these super-fast connections emerging, like most broadband technologies in Asia first. “We are deploying ADSL in US right now,” says Nayyerhabibi, “But in Asia they are delievering really high bandwidth at really low prices.”

Cortina makes chips that are used in gigabit ethernet and other broadband systems. Its customers include everyone from Cisco Systems to Huawei. “In places like China and Japan, where most neighborhoods are very dense, you have to wire them to provide many megabits if you want to deliver triple play services,” he says.

And the bandwidth requirements in these nations are only going to increase. In Hong Kong, for instance the broadband speeds have started to touch the 100 megabit/second mark. Most service providers want to sell these (and even faster) connections at relatively low price – about $25 a month. In China, the per-month service fees will be even lower.

In order to do so, there will be tremendous price pressure on the gear that powers those networks. The equipment providers will turn to merchant silicon like the kind his company makes in order to lower their own manufacturing costs. That explains why the five-year-old company had no problems raising $30 million in Series C financing. New investors Canaan Partners and JAFCO Ventures led the new round, which also included all of Cortina’s existing venture capital investors. Previous investors include El Dorado Ventures, Morgenthaler Venture Capital, and Redpoint Ventures.

And it is not alone. There are other companies which are working on technologies that will make this multi-gigabit pipe to the home possible. Smart Mobs for instance, points to Broadband Electronic Signals (LABELS,) an EU-funded project, intends to bring data to European homes at speeds of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps). Spanish researchers are building routers that use optical chips in their recently developed prototypes of optical Internet Protocol (IP) routers that can currently transfer data at 20 Gbps and soon will be able to hit transfer speeds of 40 Gbps.