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As a dad, disruptive behavior annoys me. But as an investor, I love the upstart firms that break with conventional thinking, disrupt incumbents, and in the process, unleash billions in value. Israel's Altair Semiconductor might be that sort of company, and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) could be one of its benefactors.
Last week, privately held Altair closed a $22 million third round of funding for its chips, which can process almost any type of communications signal, including classic cellular and the competing WiMAX and LTE wireless voice and data standards, among others.
Of those three, WiMAX most interests me. With support for long-range wireless Internet embedded in your iPhone, and the right software, you'd be able to circumvent cellular costs and make calls over the Internet any time you're within range of a WiMAX network. That kind of access shouldn't be hard to get. An existing application called Truphone transforms the iPhone's Wi-Fi antenna into a conduit for telephony, and it's just a matter of time before Skype appears in the App Store's digital aisles.
iPhone on a leash
LTE would offer similar promise -- if it weren't backed by the telcos. Call it the don't-bother-with-that-super-cheap-WiMAX-stuff alternative, from iPhone partner AT&T (NYSE: T ) and equipment maker Alcatel Lucent (NYSE: ALU ) , among others.
So far, Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) are leaders in developing WiMAX networks here in the United States, though Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , Comcast, and Time Warner Cable also back the technology domestically. Globally, Altair's Israeli peer, Alvarion (Nasdaq: ALVR ) , has supplied equipment for more than 200 deployments around the world.
Many of those deployments focus on broadband Web access. But with Altair's technology, many more could be made to support telephony. What better place to start than right here, in the good ol' U.S. of A.?
Brrrrring! Pick up the iPhone, Apple. It's a disruptor calling.
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