VT Silicon, a startup focused on development of semiconductor chips for mobile WiMax-enabled devices, has landed $3.3 million in financing from a high-profile Silicon Valley investor.

Menlo Ventures is investing in the Atlanta firm as it moves to design and produce prototype chips. VT Silicon is based at the Georgia Tech Advanced Technology Development Center.

WiMax is an emerging means of delivering wireless data, voice and other services at faster speeds and at longer ranges than wireless fidelity (WiFi). Among the early embracers of mobile WiMax is Sprint Nextel, which plans nationwide deployment next year.

VT Silicon uses silicon-germanium (SiGe) in its chips. The firm has also developed a patent-pending technology to prevent distortion called linearization. VT Silicon has developed a means of boosting the range of power amplifiers to decrease distortion in signals while at the same time improving batter life.

VT Silicon has chosen to use SiGe rather than gallium arsenide (GaAs) materials used by other firms in order to reduce costs.

Based on silicon-germanium (SiGe) semiconductor materials, the VT Silicon chips will include patent-pending distortion-prevention techniques – known as linearization enhancement – that are designed to support the complex signals used by WiMax devices. To reduce chip costs to justify high-volume consumer applications, the company is building its amplifiers on low-cost SiGe instead of the more exotic – and costly – gallium arsenide (GaAs) materials used in most existing WiMax power amplifiers.

"This funding will allow us to take the linearization techniques we have already proven in a test chip and apply them to commercial chips within the next 9 to 12 months," said Mike Hooper, chief executive officer of VT Silicon. "Our plan is to be shipping samples to customers early next year and to begin ramping to production by the middle of next year."

VT Silicon plans to launch two power amplifers. They will be manufactured by Jazz Semiconductor in Newport Beach, Calif.

"We believe that the leading-edge technology from VT Silicon will be very competitive in this fast-moving market," said Hal Calhoun, managing director at Menlo Ventures. "The combination of silicon germanium and unique linearization techniques makes the company’s technology attractive to the key players in this new market."