Microtune Claims DTV Converter Boxes May Not Meet NTIA Specs

March 28, 2008
Microtune sent a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) this week claiming certain certified coupon-eligible converter boxes (CECBs) failed to meet the performance requirements established by NTIA.

Microtune posted the letter on its Web site but deleted the name(s) and model number(s) of the CECBs it claimed failed NTIA performance standards when tested at Microtune’s laboratory. The CECBs that failed did not use Microtune tuners and, Microtune said, “These converter boxes are widely available in retail stores.”

“As a U.S. tuner company and as a stakeholder in the country’s historic conversion to digital TV transmission, we believe it is vital to raise an issue that could dramatically impact the success of this transition,” said James Fontaine, president and CEO of Microtune. “The NTIA has established rigorous and necessary performance standards for the CECB program, which is subsidized by the U.S. government, and the NTIA requires converter box manufacturers to comply with these technical standards.”

Fontaine urged the NTIA to speedily conduct an audit of the devices in order “to protect the interests of American consumers.” He offered to brief NTIA on Microtune’s findings, saying that poorly performing or non-performing boxes “could create a lack of confidence, not only in the digital TV transition, but also in other digital TV products as well.”

The Microtune letter notes that the CECBs that failed used single-conversion tuners and did not meet certain interference rejection thresholds across all broadcast DTV channels (2-69) as required for certification. The letter references NTIA’s rule that all specifications must be met on all channel frequencies. Microtune asked NTIA to make the noncompliant converter boxes ineligible for participation in the NTIA coupon program.

The letter concludes, “We urge you to follow up with expanded audit testing of these widely available converter boxes on an expedited basis and look forward to the opportunity to brief you on our test results at your earliest convenience.”

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