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Fast-moving radio company creates export earner

11 February 2005

Fast-moving radio company creates export earner

A Wellington company is at the forefront of digital microwave radio development after launching a new product to meet growing international demand for medium-capacity, long haul wireless communications.

Operating point-to-point over distances in excess of 100 kilometres, the new system delivers voice and broadband data services in areas where wired infrastructure is not economically viable because of distance or terrain challenges.

4RF Communications shipped the first model of its Aprisa™ range of microwave radio equipment in 2001, less than two years after start-up. Company founder and CTO, John Yaldwyn, said 4RF identified growing opportunities in the emergent wireless broadband market and needed to quickly ramp a new medium capacity product to build on the Aprisa brand success.

Development of the new Aprisa XE variant was fast tracked using Technology for Business Growth (TBG) funding assistance from Technology New Zealand. Specialist assistance was employed to help the in-house engineering design team implement a new chip architecture using the TBG investment. The resulting product has greater capacity and substantially reduced manufacturing costs.

“The Technology New Zealand funding was a turbo boost to our development process. Acquiring new capabilities in a short timeframe alleviated time-to-market pressure,” says Mr Yaldwyn. The Technology New Zealand investment was part of more than $3 million invested by 4RF in the Aprisa XE product development.

Mr Yaldwyn says 4RF is a good example of a successful technology company producing innovative products and opening up new markets.

He says of the few incentives to encourage investment in research and development the Technology New Zealand’s TBG programme is “an excellent initiative to support technology companies evolve new products and expand their horizons in shorter timeframes than possible with R&D budgets typical in New Zealand.”

“Skilled people are attracted to where R&D dollars are being spent,” says 4RF Development Manager, Deon Grobler.

“It’s not just about money but rather the combination of investment, technology management, and challenge that’s important.”

Examples of the Aprisa XE in action include GSM base station links to extend mobile phone coverage in French Polynesia, delivering reliable broadband services for an offshore gas field in Tunisia, and communications for a rail system in Indonesia.

Unlike short range unlicenced wireless system, Aprisa technology operates in licensed frequency bands, where exclusive assignments are used to manage interference and maintain performance.

In just three years, 4RF has become a significant employer in Wellington. Of its growing staff of around 70, more than 24 are engineers involved fulltime in research and development. Some staff are based overseas to be closer to customers who are now spread across more than 40 countries.


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