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'Programmable broadband' has arrived for PC TV

Posted: 21 Jan 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PC TV  digital TV  programmable broadband  broadcast TV 

Signal interpretation
Asked how CrestaTech's "programmable broadband" differs from "software-defined radio (SDR)," Haber explained that SDR often refers to "interpretation of signals" once those signals—often in narrowband—are captured.

In contrast, his company is focused on making "the transmission and reception of a very broad range of RF signals" programmable. Frequencies supported in CrestaTV include 42- to 864MHz and L1 band.

The total solution of CrestaTV dissipates only 500mW of power under maximum load, the company claimed. In sum, OEMs can implement CrestaTV on PCIe cards for desktops and PCI mini-express cards or USB TV sticks for laptops.

CrestaTV's programmable tuner is unique. Competing TV receiver vendors have developed a separate tuner for the United States and European digital TV each, because every TV broadcast standard tends to impose on it different receiver characteristics requirements. The U.S. ATSC system, for example, demands a very precise linearity in the 6MHz spectrum, while phase distortion becomes an important element in OFDM-based DVB-T, explained Ramon Cazares, VP, business development at CrestaTech.

CrestaTech's genius may lie in what Haber ostentatiously calls "Haber's Law," which says that "if it can be done in software, it will."

In early 90's, when every multimedia chip company was working on a dedicated MPEG-2 video decoder IC, Haber, who founded CompCore Multimedia, was the first to develop and license an IP core capable of decoding MPEG-2 video decoding in software by using processing power available in hardware.

Multicore era
With CrestaTech, Haber is applying that proven theory to its universal, programmable receiver. And this time around, "We are riding on the waves of a growing number of more powerful multi-core processors," said Cazares.

"Look at x86, Cell, MIPS and ARM today. They are all offering multiple cores combined with special instruction sets for media accelerators," he explained.

CrestaTech's engineering team, headed up by Mihai Murgulescu, founder and chief technology officer, has worked on algorithms designed for software multi-threading, has developed a new software framework for parallel processing and has done extensive optimisation for SIMD accelerators.

Unlike many chip vendors' programmable demodulators which are often married to their specific DSP, Murgulescu claimed that they wrote software that is portable across different CPU platforms.

Speaking of CrestaTech, Gerry Kaufhold, principal analyst responsible for converging markets and technologies at In-Stat, said "These guys may be on to something important."

Kaufhold noted, "Right now, most PC TV tuners are used in non-mobile, desktop or stationary laptop PCs." Indeed, thus far, so-called "on-the-go TV viewing" has been limited.

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