It’s safe to say Steve Altman knows valuable technology when he sees it. When he joined Qualcomm in 1989, he was tasked with building an intellectual property licensing business around a new mobile networking technology called CDMA. Today CDMA forms the basis of all 3G networks, and a portion of the purchase price of most 3G and 4G phones go directly into Qualcomm’s coffers as licensing fees.
Now vice chairman of Qualcomm, Altman is turning his attention to another company that claims to have a very disruptive technology. On Thursday, MagnaCom, a Southern California startup just emerging from stealth mode, announced that Altman is joining its advisory board and has taken a “meaningful” stake in the company.
MagnaCom isn’t your typical networking startup. It’s not designing a faster LTE chip, or creating a better way to compress video over copper links. Instead, it’s challenging one of the fundamental technologies of communications: Quadrature Amplitude Modulation. QAM is the modulation method underlying everything from mobile and wireline broadband, Wi-Fi and even optical and satellite systems.
MagnaCom’s founders Yossi Cohen and Amir Eliaz, both telecom industry veterans, believe QAM has seen its best...