Breakthrough Victoria tips $3 million into Sydney 5G chipset startup Millibeam to grow in Melbourne

- July 4, 2024 3 MIN READ
Image: Millibeam
The march south by NSW startups seeking funding continues with Breakthrough Victoria ending the financial year with a $3 million investment in 5G semiconductor startup Millibeam to expand in Melbourne.

It’s part of a $6 raise for the deep tech startup, which is building chipsets that are faster and cheaper for what’s known as “mmWave 5G” .

Also chipping in were CSIRO-backed Main Sequence and LaunchVic-backed Archangel, who are existing investors from a $750,000 Seed round in April 2022,

Millibeam previously banked aand the federal industry department dropped a $2.1 million grant on the project later that year under its Supply Chain Resilience Initiative.

Last year it was one of the 23 deep tech startups to feature in the Cicada Innovations Tech23 showcase.

MmWave is a type of super-fast 5G with exponentially greater bandwidth than standard 5G, thereby enabling significantly more users. The spectrum has been available for decades, but technical challenges and the high cost have impeded adoption.

The chipsets developed by Millibeam reduce the total-cost-of-ownership of mmWave 5G/6G networks up to ten-fold, with an increase in energy efficiency and radio-link range that enables very high-speed and high-throughput wireless connectivity.

Founded in Sydney in 2021 by radio frequency engineer Dr Venkata Gutta, the Breakthrough Victoria funding will see Millibeam more than treble the size of its engineering team of four in Melbourne, employing an additional four specialised systems engineers and five technicians within the year.

The startup is a “fabless manufacturer”, meaning it designs and sells chips but outsources their manufacture. But the company will build a semiconductor packaging capability in Victoria, with potential for future expansion to support commercial mmWave 5G chipset packaging.  It’s also planning to establish a research partnership with a Victorian university, enhancing the region’s position as a hub for semiconductor and telecommunications innovation.

The problem Millibeam tackles is growing congestion on the current 5G/6G bandwidth with the rapid growth of 5G/6G linked devices. That’s leading to data transfer delays and losses, which are expected to increase as AI applications are added to the mix.

Dr Gutta, Millibeam’s CEO said their chipset design seeks to use both existing 5G spectrum at lower frequencies and the 5G spectrum at millimeter-wave frequencies.

“The future of ultra-high-speed 5G/6G networks, powering AI and remote surgery, hinges on developing energy-efficient, long-range radio-frequency chips – a hurdle that’s stumped even industry giants,” he said.

“Millibeam is leading the charge in 5G disruption with a clear vision, a team of innovators, and the backing of visionary investors like Breakthrough Victoria. Their support is instrumental in bringing our groundbreaking 5G/6G solutions to market faster.”

Millibeam is the latest in a wave of NSW startups looking to shift their growth focus south of the border thanks to Victorian government support from state-backed investors such as Breakthrough Victoria and LaunchVic.

Last year Breakthrough Victoria poured $6 million into dairy alternative startup Eden Brew’s $24.4m Series A. The Victorian backing saw the business relocate its headquarters from Sydney to Melbourne as well as developing its research and manufacturing in Victoria. 

While the Queensland and Victorian Labor governments are pouring millions into startups and supporting venture funds to grow in their states, the NSW sector sits waiting for the outcome of a review into innovation policy launched in September last year after Labor came to power in March 2023.

The recent NSW Budget offered little for startups, while Victoria offered $40 million for LaunchVic and the Queensland Investment Corporation has backed multiple venture funds to grow its startup sector.

Breakthrough Victoria CEO, Grant Dooley said his fund was thrilled to support Millibeam’s mission “to make mmWave 5G a conventional reality” and grow in his state.

“Their innovative solutions have the potential to transform telecommunications and create significant economic and technological benefits for Victoria,” he said.

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