by Tracy Mayor

CIO 20/20 Honorees–Innovator’s Profile: Teresa H. Meng of Atheros Communications Inc.

Oct 01, 20022 mins

Founder and CTO

Atheros Communications Inc.

Teresa Meng is an academic: a scientist with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from the National Taiwan University, a master’s and PhD from Berkeley, an IEEE fellow who teaches at Stanford University and a National Science Foundation honoree who holds seven U.S. patents. So what’s she doing heading up a company in the heart of Silicon Valley? No one else would do it.

In the 1990s, Meng organized a group of students to work on low-cost, high-performance radio projects. By 1997, it was clear that one of those technologies?wireless applications in the 5GHz band?was mature enough to become a commercial product. But when Meng tried to sell corporate America, corporate America wasn’t ready. “They all said it would take them five to 10 years to ramp up,” she says. “We said, ’Well, we can do it in two.’”

In 1998 Meng launched Atheros Communications in Sunnyvale, Calif., now acknowledged as the leader in translating the 802.11a standard into practical, secure products. “If you believe in wireless,” she says, “then [802.11a] is the only way to go.”

Meng wants to keep the unlicensed, 5GHz bandwidth free from the monopolies that have polarized the cellular marketplace. “I don’t think governments have the right to sell bandwidth monopolies,” says Meng, 41. “The air belongs to everybody.”

Though Meng is clearly the technical and entrepreneurial star at Atheros, she was happy to take the title of CTO and leave the executive leadership duties to CEO Rich Redelfs. Science aside, motivation is Meng’s forte, says Bob Brodersen, founder of the Berkeley Wireless Research Center. “The first year,” Brodersen recalls, “I think 80 percent of the employees were PhDs from Berkeley and Stanford. These people could have gone a lot of different places. She really pulled everybody in.”