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Orca Shows Multistandard Demodulator at CES 2014

Last month I reported Orca Announces Multi-Standard TV Receiver IC for Tablets and said the company would be demonstrating the technology at CES. I had a chance to spend some time with Orca Systems' engineers in their suite at LVH and see the chip in operation. I also had a chance to learn more about their DSP-RF technology, which in the end turned out to be more interesting than the multistandard demodulator.

The multistandard demodulator uses the Ensigma core technology licensed from Imagination Technologies. In the suite, Orca Systems demonstrated switching a demodulator between ATSC and DVB-T signals. The ATSC signal was supplied over-the-air and the DVB-T signal from a test modulator. The demodulator currently does not support DVB-T2 (more memory is needed), but DVB-T2 should be supported in 2015. The demodulator can handle any variation of COFDM and, in the final design, be able to change formats in less than 200 milliseconds. This would make it an ideal demodulator during the transition to ATSC 3.0, as it would enable one set-top box or receiver to pick up both ATSC and the ATSC 3.0 signals.

Orca Systems' DSP-RF uses an open-loop frequency synthesizer and enables implementation of RF and mixed signal radios using RF circuits on standard CMOS chips, thus reducing power consumption and silicon area while maintaining RF performance better than or equal to other manufacturers' tuners. Frequency conversion, gain and amplification are done in the same device. DSP-RF can also be used for a direct digital to RF transmitter. Orca System's showed me a Bluetooth audio link using the technology.

The technology Orca used was new to me. The technology seems ideal for future RF communications systems that have to process signals with different bandwidths on different frequencies at the same time. The technology can also be used for transmission. The polar modulation technology Orca System is using for its Bluetooth transmitter operates at 50 percent efficiency and may also be useful at some point in higher power broadcast transmitters.

I'll be digging deeper into the technology with the help of the engineers at Orca System and hope to provide more details in a future RF Technology column along with some photos of the test setups and block diagrams of the system.

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.