New ATSC DTV Tuner Technology at CES

Several semiconductor manufacturers used the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this weekend to announce new tuner chips and modules for ATSC terrestrial DTV reception and digital cable.

Zarlink Semiconductor and Thomson introduced a single conversion "plug-and-play" tuner module that the companies said meets all ATSC terrestrial and SCTE cable specifications for true "plug-and-play" compliance. The Thomson DPF88XX tuner modules uses the Zarlink SL2610 single conversion tuner I.C. The press release said the SL2610 "is the world's only commercially available device that integrates image rejection in a traditional single-conversion 3 band MOPLL (mixer oscillator phase locked loop) device..."

Robert Hanrahan, ATSC marketing manager at Zarlink Semiconductors, said, "Designers were previously forced to use a more expensive dual-conversion architecture to develop hybrid cable and terrestrial tuners for 'plug-and-play' televisions. The SL2610 device supports a simplified architecture for digital televisions, significantly trimming tuner costs compared with a dual-conversion design." For more information, refer to the SL2610 product profile. Thomson said the tuner module is available now, with full engineering support.

STMicroelectronics introduced a new single ship demodulator that includes support for downstream interactive OOB (Out Of Band) QPSK modulation. The multistandard chip supports ATSC A53 Annex D 8VSB reception as well as ITU-T J.83/B digital cable reception. Armando Caltabiano, STMicroelectronics retail multimedia and satellite division general manager, commented, "The STV0370 is the best in class high-definition demodulator designed for U.S. HDTV applications, enabling NIM manufacturers and set-top box makers the ability to cost reduce their system while giving viewers the advanced features they now expect as standard within the new fast growing HD market. The STV0370 and STi7710 US TV platform is likely to enjoy the same success that the STV0361 plus STi5518 combination have achieved in European DVB-T with current 92 percent market share."

The STMicroelectronics press release said, "The chip is extremely robust against multi-path signals and echoes, offering enhanced indoor and outdoor antenna reception. It supports the CEA Antenna Control Interface Standard (EIA/CEA-909, parts A and B) which allows viewers to use Smart Antenna technology to optimize reception by electronically adjusting the antenna gain, polarization, and beam direction, rather than by physical positional adjustment." Full production of the device, priced at U.S. $8 in large volumes, is planned for the first quarter of this year.

Philips Electronics announced its Nexperia TV810 reference design for NTSC plus ATSC reception on LCD based TV sets. The Philips announcement said, "The reference design features advanced picture improvement algorithms and supports dynamic backlight technology. It incorporates flash memory to support wired and wireless network connections, streaming media and digital photo display for an enhanced consumer entertainment experience." The TV810 includes a control processor, two programmable media processors, high definition video decoders, a scaler, renderer and other circuitry needed for building an integrated digital TV. Philips said the Nexperia TV810 system would be available in the first quarter this year at a total system, high volume cost of $125 per unit. The first DTV sets using this chip will be in volume production by Q3, 2005.

Broadcom claimed its BCM3560 television-on-a-chip represented "the television industry's first single-chip solution that is compatible with the NTSC analog standard, the North American digital terrestrial or ATSC digital standard, and the digital cable television standard." The Broadcom press release said the integrated ATSC receiver on the chip "uses an advanced system architecture that enables the chip to reliably acquire, track and demodulate signals in the presence of interference or a wide range of varying multi-path channel conditions that experience the presence of noise." In addition to the RF circuitry, the BCM3560 includes a 250 MHz MIPS327 CPU and the Broadcom 2D graphics engine, allowing for a rich graphical user interface. The chip has interfaces for memory, smart cards, IEEE-1394, and support for additional connectivity such as USB and wireless. Limited samples of the chip will be available this quarter.

In-Stat Senior Analyst Michelle Abraham commented, "The FCC is mandating that all televisions 13-inches or larger must have a digital tuner by July 2007. This mandate places significant cost pressures on television manufacturers to deliver televisions that not only support digital television, but also support all of the hundreds of analog channels still being distributed by operators. By offering a single-chip digital TV (DTV) solution that supports both digital and analog reception, Broadcom is enabling television manufacturers to economically address the industry conversion to DTV."