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Saankhya Labs debuts SDR TV demodulator IC

Posted: 16 Nov 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:SDR  demodulator IC  TV receiver  DTV 

India start-up Saankhya Labs Pvt. Ltd has launched the Pruthvi, a software-defined radio (SDR) architecture-based universal TV demodulator IC targeted at world TV and PC-TV receiver markets.

Built on an ASSP platform, Pruthvi is made up of programmable DSPs and is claimed to be the first demodulation IC to enable global TV chassis, the company claimed. The product prototype that supports all standards on a FPGA platform is ready and has been demonstrated to six major TV companies in Japan.

According to the company, the addressable market for universal TV demodulation is in excess of 50 crore units in 2014, of which the DTV market is 8.20 crore, the hybrid STB is 8.30 crore, PCTV is 2 crore, and mobile TV will move to 30 crore in 2013 from 2 crore this year.

"DTV broadcast standards vary across regions and with transmission medium. Terrestrial DTV in U.S. and Korea uses ATSC (8-VSB), Europe and India use DVB-T (COFDM), Japan and Brazil use ISDB-T (COFDM) and China uses DTMB (TDS-OFDM) standard. Europe recently released the next generation terrestrial standard DVB-T2. These are just the terrestrial variants," said Vishwa Kayargadde, CEO, Saankhya Labs.

Cable TV uses J.83 A/B/C (QAM) standards, satellite uses DVB-S, DVB-S2 (QPSK) and mobile TV has its own variants: DVB-H, DMB, ATSC-M/H, CMMB and MediaFlo. In future, TVs will need to support WLAN (802.11a/b/g/n) for interfacing to home video servers/IPTV gateways and Bluetooth for photo-display.

Although most countries have announced switch-off dates for terrestrial analogue TV transmission (NTSC/PAL/SECAM), it will not disappear overnight because there are many sources of analogue TV such as cable-TV, camcorders, DVD players and VCRs which will continue to exist. The future TV designs need to support analogue standards in addition to digital TV standards for some time to come. "You can well imagine the welter of standards TV manufacturers have to cope with," he said.

Pruthvi reduces the BoM cost of TV chassis by supporting multiple standards on a single chip and manufacturers can achieve significant savings by reducing the number of designs to be manufactured. By using it, PC-TV dongle manufacturers can support seamless operation across different regions for nomadic users, Kayargadde said.

Most DTV/PC-TV manufacturers today cater to the world market through region- specific products, leading to additional design, manufacturing and inventory costs due to separate product lines for each region. DTV sets in each region have to support terrestrial, cable and sometime satellite reception, requiring two or three demodulator chips on the DTV chassis, leading to higher BoM costs.

"RF tuners and the media processors (MPEG decoder and A/V processor)—the other two major components of a TV—are moving towards universality. So the time for multi-mode demodulation has arrived and Saankhya aims to capitalise on this market opportunity," he said.

Cutting down costs
While it is important to support multiple standards in a single chip, the key challenge is to provide a cost-effective solution. The conventional methods of demodulating each standard through a hardwired implementation are not scalable.

Saankhya used the SDR approach to the cost-competitive consumer electronics market like DTV, saying that as semiconductor technology moves deeper into sub-micron geometries (65-, 45- and 32nm) the SDR architecture starts becoming cost-effective. The flexibility that SDR approach allows is extremely well-suited for the TV market due to the variety of standards and this approach allows field-upgradability of demodulation software, Kayargadde said.

"Pruthvi has been designed to deliver the optimum required compute power per square mm of chip area. Instead of providing generic compute power (as in a generic DSP instruction set) which tends to get under-utilised (wasted), Saankhya has recognised that each stage of processing in a demodulation signal chain needs different type of compute power leading to different class of instructions.

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