MaxLinear Unveils 'Full Spectrum Capture' Satellite Receiver Chips at CES 2014

With a few exceptions (Intel, Qualcomm, and Rockchip are ones I noticed), at CES you won't see the companies that design the chips that go inside the products on the exhibit floor. They are at the show, but are hidden away in hotel suites and other “meeting places.”

One company looking to attract the interest of home satellite system manufacturers is MaxLinear. This year at the NAB Show they announced the start of shipments for “the industry's first Full Spectrum Capture” satellite tuner/demodulators for DVB-S/S2 satellite TV systems. The six-system-on-chip (SoC) devices in the MxL5xx family are designed to support single or multiple inputs (up to a maximum of four) and integrate from four to eight DVB-S/S2 demodulators, enabling reception and demodulation of an equal number of digital satellite TV channels.

The MxL5xx series chips are low-power CMOS-based receivers that can be used for home media gateways, SAT IP multiswitches, and IP-LNBs. The receivers have a full-spectrum signal capture bandwidth range from 1.2 GHz to 4.8 GHz, depending on the RF input configuration. Each demodulator can receive any channel within the entire capture bandwidth, thus allowing multiple viewers in a house to watch and record different programs at the same time.

“The satellite TV industry is in a rapid shift to multi-channel services that provide more selection for consumers,” said MaxLinear's vice president and general manager, Brian Sprague said. “With the MxL5xx product family, we are positioning ourselves to be the market leader in this transition. Now that the full product family is generally available, we look forward to engaging new customers and bringing the benefits of our technology to more satellite television customers allowing them to benefit from the multi-screen TV revolution.”

MaxLinear used CES to announce the MxL86x family of 24-channel “Full-Spectrum Capture” band translation and channel stacking SoC. MaxLinear said the devices have the industry's lowest power consumption and are designed for worldwide satellite operators transitioning to high-density, channel-stacking outdoor units (ODUs).

MaxLinear explained that, “Existing analog channel stacking ODUs are based on complex multi-chip solutions that require expensive external discrete RF filters, a separate microcontroller, and additional FSK or DISEqC ICs for communication between the set-top box (STB) and the ODU. Those solutions do not scale beyond 12 channels stacked in L-Band due to RF filtering architecture limitations.”

The MxL86x devices include a complete 24-channel digital stacking switch platform, including filters, communication modems, and a microcontroller, reducing ODU system costs and addressing legacy thermal design challenges.

Brian Sprague added: “These new devices are part of MaxLinear’s aggressive expansion into the satellite ODU market by taking advantage of its inherently low-power CMOS process technology and its advanced FSC and multi-channel capabilities to provide high performance, low-power digital ODU solutions. Satellite operators get lower installation cost and less complexity along with the ability to deploy new multi-channel services over a single-cable infrastructure.”

For details on the MxL86x line, see the MaxLinear press release MaxLinear Enters Satellite Digital Outdoor-Unit Market With Family of Single-Chip Full-Spectrum Capture SoCs.

MaxLinear is applying its “Full Spectrum Capture” (FSC) technology to terrestrial systems with its MxL21x family of SoCs. These support reception of two to four QAM/DVB-C video channels and four DOCSIS 3.0 channels for data. It’s able to receive the full 1 GHz cable spectrum. One interesting side effect of the FSC technology is that it allowed MaxLinear, in partnership with Zcorum, to offer a remote spectrum analyzer solution for set-top boxes (STBs) based on MaxLinear FSC tuners. More information is available in the release MaxLinear Combines DVB-C Video and DOCSIS 3.0 Data In New Family of Full-Spectrum Capture Front-End Receivers.

Last but not least, MaxLinear is applying its FSC technology to off-air TV. No model numbers were provided, but MaxLinear said that its CES demonstration would showcase simultaneous reception of four separate RF channels from off-air digital terrestrial broadcast stations in Las Vegas with simultaneous display on a TV, PC, tablet and mobile phone.

The FSC technology allows digitalization of the entire broadcast or cable spectrum rather than filtering out individual channels, thus enabling simultaneous tuning to any number of channels available within the spectrum by all devices within a household. The spectrum analyzer function in the FSC chips can be used to identify interferers such as LTE and FM broadcast signals for active avoidance. FSC also permits “ultra-fast” smart channel scan solutions by identifying active and vacant channels. More information is available in the release MaxLinear Demonstrates World’s First Full-Spectrum Capture Multi-Screen Terrestrial Technology at CES.

MaxLinear has already found customers for the new chips. At CES, Zinwell selected MaxLinear's channel-stacking chip next generation satellite digital ODU and Sagemcom selected a MaxLinear FSC SoC for its next generation multi-channel cable video STB.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any technical data, other than press releases, on the MaxLinear web site.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.