Renesas Continues Acquisition Trail, Now Pursuing Sequans’ Cellular IP
First, it was Dialog Semiconductor. Then it was Celano and Panthronics. Now, Renesas is after 4G/5G specialist Sequans in its latest string of IoT-focused acquisitions.
While Renesas is a prominent name in the world of MCUs, the company hasn’t historically specialized in connectivity. Now, with approximately 15 billion connected IoT devices, it’s getting harder to separate the two.
To bolster its lineup of connected devices, Renesas recently announced an acquisition agreement with Sequans Communication, a leader in cellular technology.
Sequans’ Monarch 2 GM02S, an LTE Cat M1/NB1/NB2 module. Image used courtesy of Sequans Communications
What motivated Renesas to pursue this acquisition, and what events led up to it?
Renesas Closes in on the IoT Market
With industry reports forecasting the number of cellular IoT devices to grow by 10% year over year, Renesas is deeply committed to building out a more comprehensive portfolio of IoT components.
As mentioned in the press release, Renesas is particularly interested in expanding its presence in the wide-area network (WAN) market space by integrating Sequans’ portfolio of connectivity products and IP into its lineups. Renesas’ updated portfolio will specifically target asset tracking, smart homes, fixed wireless access, and connected vehicles.
Sequans’ Story: Small-time 4G Chipmaker to Cellular Leader
Sequans Communications launched in 2003 as a “pure play 4G chip company” under the direction of a group of broadband specialists from Alcatel and Pacific Broadband. By 2013, the company had made a name for itself in the Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) and LTE markets with three generations of WiMAX technology, four generations of LTE technology (including its first LTE chip, Colibri), and the so-called first IoT-optimized Category 1 (Cat 1) chipset, Calliope. In 2021, Sequans reported another milestone: the “world’s first” LTE-M/NB-IoT single-chip solution, Monarch.
Today, Sequans’ 4G/5G portfolio includes baseband processors, radio frequency (RF) transceivers, machine-to-machine (M2M) modules, and software support. The company claims deployment of these products in the millions. Sequans’ product offerings can be broken down into five different product families: the Monarch, Calliope, Colibri, Cassiopeia, and Taurus.
A block diagram of the Monarch SQN3330. Image used courtesy of Sequans Communications
- Monarch: A platform for enabling LTE-M and NB-IoT connectivity in IoT devices
- Calliope: A chipset optimized for Cat-1 IoT devices, including baseband and RF chips, and an integrated IoT applications processor
- Cassiopeia and Colibri: LTE Cat 4 chips designed for broadband IoT devices, such as customer premise equipment (CPE), mobile routers, and gateways
- Taurus: A 5G New Radio (NR) platform specifically optimized for 5G broadband IoT applications
Renesas’ Flaming Path of Communications Acquisitions
Renesas’ acquisition of Sequans is not the first time in recent history the company has purchased an IoT-focused company.
In early 2021, Renesas started its slew of acquisitions by acquiring Dialog Semiconductor, one of Apple’s major chip suppliers, for $6B. Motivated by a need to expand its reach in IoT, power management, and connectivity solutions, Renesas viewed this acquisition as a strategic move to diversify beyond automotive applications to areas like consumer devices and data centers.
Following the Dialog acquisition, Renesas continued its momentum by acquiring Celeno Communications. This acquisition largely targeted Celeno’s strong standing in the Wi-Fi6/6E marketplace. Renesas then leveraged Celeno’s Wi-Fi chipsets to scale its capabilities in wireless connectivity and IoT areas such as home networks and smart buildings.
A timeline of Renesas’ company evolutions, including acquisitions. Image used courtesy of Renesas
Finally, in June of this year, Renesas closed out the acquisition of Panthronics AG. Panthronics reports that its NFC ICs offer a -80 dB sensitivity in readers and a power output up to 2 W. With a specific interest in these chipsets and their associated software, Renesas used this acquisition as an opportunity to grow its 13 “Winning Combination” designs, including a smart NFC access control system, a metered electric vehicle charging station, and a single-board computer.
Timeline for the Renesas-Sequans Deal
Currently, Renesas and Sequans have only agreed to a memorandum of understanding (MoU), meaning that while they formally agree to the acquisition, neither company has made a legal commitment yet.
Following consultation with the Sequans Board, Renesas will offer to acquire the NFC company for $249M. Both sides expect to close the deal by the first quarter of 2024, pending government regulations and other formalities.