Indian GaN startup explores global opportunities in telecom and EVs

Prasanth Aby Thomas, DIGITIMES, Bangalore 0

Hareesh Chandrasekar, CEO & co-founder, AGNIT Semiconductors. Credit: AGNIT.

An Indian startup is commercializing globally significant Gallium Nitride (GaN) semiconductor technology with applications in wireless transmitters and 5G networks.

AGNIT Semiconductors, incubated at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, is exploring opportunities to use GaN in growing consumer markets such as wireless charging and electric vehicles over the next 3-5 years. In a recent conversation with Digitimes Asia, Hareesh Chandrasekar, CEO & co-founder of AGNIT, explained that the company's innovation is driven by an interdisciplinary approach.

"We've assembled a team of material scientists, process engineers, and application technologists," said Chandrasekar. "Over four years, we developed processes and technologies that now form our core capabilities."

USP leveraging GaN

Gallium nitride offers efficiency and performance advantages over other materials dominating industries, such as silicon and gallium arsenide.

"GaN technology is revolutionizing consumer electronics and similar applications due to its efficiency and power handling capabilities," Chandrasekar noted. "For instance, in commercial 5G networks, every base station uses a power amplifier that converts low-power signals into higher power outputs necessary for transmission. GaN excels here because it's more efficient, providing about 60-65 percent efficiency compared to older technologies like gallium arsenide or silicon, which offer around 40 percent."

As a vertically integrated manufacturer, AGNIT can tailor devices to meet customers' specific needs, which reduces costs and development time. Chandrasekar highlighted their main strengths as customizability, performance optimization, cost management, and rapid integration.

"Our USP is fundamentally linked to our vertical integration strategy," Chandrasekar said. "This approach provides us with complete control over our manufacturing processes, allowing us to customize our devices to meet specific customer requirements. Not many companies can offer such flexibility."

If a customer requires adjustments to their device specifications, AGNIT is capable of modifying any of their 100-odd processes to deliver the exact product needed. This capability ensures that AGNIT provides devices optimized not just for general use but tailored to specific applications.

Moreover, vertical integration enables AGNIT to ensure the best possible performance of its products while managing costs effectively. "In a field like ours, where technology can be more expensive, being able to justify the cost through superior performance and customization is crucial," added Chandrasekar.

"Another aspect where our USP becomes evident is in our ability to quickly integrate customer feedback into our production process. We engage closely with our clients to understand their needs and offer solutions that are not only technically sound but also timely. For example, we often develop reference designs for specific applications, which helps our clients integrate our devices into their systems more efficiently."

This approach allows AGNIT to maintain a robust local supply chain, reducing lead times significantly compared to competitors who might rely on external suppliers. This is particularly advantageous in today's market, where quick turnarounds are essential.

Medium to long-term goals

GaN is poised to be a key technology in various sectors. Looking ahead, over the next three to five years, AGNIT aims to expand into more consumer-oriented use cases. Initially focused on niche markets to refine its technology, the company now sees a clear shift towards broader consumer applications.

"Our immediate goal is to explore how GaN technology can be integrated into everyday products, not just specialized industrial equipment," Chandrasekhar stated. "So far, we've concentrated largely on radio frequency applications, but we're planning to expand our focus to include cost-effective power switching solutions."

The company is also very interested in the potential of electric vehicles (EVs) and similar technologies, where GaN can play a significant role due to its efficiency and power management capabilities. This area represents a significant opportunity for growth and innovation.