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Startup touts all-CMOS, single-die global mobile TV chip

Posted: 21 Sep 2007     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile TV chip  RF/baseband system-on-chip  hardware-engine-based design 

MediaPhy Corp. next month will sample what it calls an "all-CMOS, single-die worldwide mobile TV chip."

The 25-person fabless startup's engineering team, based in India, has integrated the RF and baseband sections using a 130-nanometer RF CMOS manufacturing process at foundry supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The chip is designed to work with mobile TV standards DVB-H and DVB-T (handset and terrestrial, respectively) in Europe; Japan's ISDB-T (one, three and 13 segments); and T-DMB/DAB, commercialised in South Korea.

The only other chip vendor that has rolled out a single-die, RF/baseband system-on-chip for mobile TV is Newport Media Inc. (Lake Forest, Calif.). Other mobile TV chip companies, such as DiBcom SA (Palaiseau, France) and Siano Mobile Silicon (Netanya, Israel), provide tuner/demodulator combinations in system-in-package form.

While MediaPhy did not attend the International Broadcasting Convention here, one competitor attending IBC expressed skepticism that the market can sustain yet another player promising to solve the world's mobile TV standards problems.

"Last fall, I counted almost 40 companies whose businesses touch the mobile TV market," said Azzedine Boubguira, VP of marketing and business development at DiBcom. "There are a large number of pretenders and wannabes, and only a handful of us who have real products."

Today, DiBcom, Siano and Newport Media are considered the top three mobile TV chip suppliers.

But Terry Leeder, MediaPhy's CEO and president, said his company's product offers a key differentiator: the lowest power consumption available for mobile TV reception and demodulation. The company claims that its multimode chip consumes 120 milliwatts in DVB-T mode and 20mW for DVB-H. It consumes 80mW in ISDB-T 1-seg and 120mW in ISDB 13-seg, according to the company.

By contrast, Siano's multimode tuner/demodulator, supporting DVB-T, DVB-H and a number of variations of DMB/DAB, consumes 190mW in DVB-T. And Newport Media's DVB-H/T integrated RF tuner and demodulator SoC consumes 200mW in DVB-T mode.

MediaPhy's chip, the MP2011 Solo, is a hardware-engine-based design. It uses Tensilica's processor core but no digital signal processor, thus eliminating DSP overhead in clock speed and requiring no program memory. The chip enables a low digital clock speed and the lowest available always-on power, according to Leeder.

The OFDM architecture performs multimode functions with no die-size overhead, according to MediaPhy. The hardware-based design enables high MIPS and low clock speed. Each of the five fast Fourier transform (FFT) engines inside the chip, performing a specific set of OFDM functions, can be turned off individually and sequentially, before and after use.

The chip requires a minimal number of external parts. The single CMOS die eliminates sub-block interface components. The zero-IF direct conversion radio requires no IF SAW filters, low-noise amplifiers, capacitors, inductors and associated memory blocks.

Beyond its all-CMOS single-die implementation of mobile TV, the MediaPhy chip's claim to fame is that it supports multiple standards (except Qualcomm's MediaFLO and China's home-grown specifications). By adding support for ISDB-T and T-DMB/DAB in addition to DVB-H, Leeder said, "We have sidestepped the deployment timing questions of DVB-H." Mobile handset manufacturers or module suppliers, in theory, can develop one design and turn it into several products for the fastest-growing mobile TV markets, wherever they arise.

Whether handset vendors will buy that argument is another story. Handset vendors, especially tier-one manufacturers, always want a dedicated single-mode chip, with no extra features, that's small, cheap and efficient.

Leeder further claimed that "multi-mode allows a Japanese customer roaming onto a different country, for example, to pick up local signals." Notwithstanding Leeder's optimism, the reality is that this won't happen anytime soon.

Roaming agreements among service providers?even for voice-only roaming within the same country?are already complex. True multimode mobile handsets with TV reception capabilities are not a top priority for any mobile service provider in today's world.

MediaPhy's first chip, housed in a 7 x 7-mm clear mold flat pack, will be priced at Rs.283.14 ($7) to Rs.323.59 ($8) in high volume, according to the company.

Mass production of a smaller-die version, featuring the same pinouts, is slated for the first quarter.

Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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