UK Bluetooth firm buys US GPS outfit


CSR has agreed to buy the leading GPS vendor SiRF, in a bid to merge another technology into its chips – and cash in on a projected boom in GPS handsets.

CSR, formerly known as Cambridge Silicon Radio, has agreed to buy American GPS (global positioning system) chip expert, SiRF. The transaction values SiRF at £91 million, and gives SiRF shareholders 27 percent of the merged company.

SiRF’s SiRFstar GPS chips are used in Tom Tom, Garmin, Palm and other system, while CSR is best known as a Bluetooth chip maker. CSR has been focusing on making combination chips, adding Wi-Fi, FM radio and GPS to its Bluetooth processors.
The combined company will still be based in Cambridge UK.
“GPS is next big growth market – and we are putting together world leader in GPS with world leader in Bluetooth,” Jeffrey Torrance, vice president of corporate development at CSR told eWEEK Europe. At the moment, only 20 percent of phones, at the high end of the market, have GPS in them, but that is expected to double in the next few years, he said.
Phones are developing into a two-chip system, said Torrance. People had thought at one time that Bluetooth would eventually be absorbed into the main phone chip, so the phone is based around one processor and specialist companies like CSR would be out in the cold. Instead, things have evolved differently, with other radio technologies, such as Wi-Fi, FM and now GPS joining into the Bluetooth chip, said Torrance: “The phone is building up like a binary star – one chip for voice and the other is the connectivity centre. Our goal is to bring all those connectivity technologies together into one connectivity powerhouse.”
CSR already has GPS, but has concentrated on eGPS, a form that uses triangulation between cellular base stations to locate a GPS handset, instead of the satellites used in conventional GPS. The two technologies are complementary, and can combine in A-GPS, where cellular location assists the conventional GPS: “It’s a continuum,” said Torrance.

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