Editorial: Low-Cost DTV Tuners

If you have been reading RF Report regularly, you may have noticed two trends emerging in the DTV transition. One is the continuing stream of announcements by manufacturers that they are including DTV tuners in handheld devices, mostly cell phones. Sony's announcement of a very small, low power DTV tuner module is likely to lead to even more manufacturers including this capability in handheld devices, including PDAs and cell phones. The second trend is rapid deployment of DTV receivers and tuners. The second story this week reports on demand for DTV receivers exceeding supply in Australia, even though the program offerings on DTV are limited. The driving force here seems to be price -- the DTV receivers are under $200 in price and expected to drop to less than $100 next year.

What's happening in the U.S.? The first trend isn't even on the radar screen. The handheld tuners offered so far are based on COFDM. While enhanced VSB shows promise for mobile and portable applications, it remains stuck in the laboratory. We may not be as far behind on the second trend. As reported in recent RF Reports, the manufacturers that make ATSC tuner modules for consumer electronics manufacturers are introducing new tuner modules that promise easier integration into existing TV set designs and improved performance. Consumer electronic manufacturers, seeing the success of low cost DTV set-top boxes and receivers in Australia and England, may decide the U.S. market is ready for a low-cost set top box. Stay tuned!