[opendtv] Will software-based mobile TV kick start PC TV?

  • From: "Manfredi, Albert E" <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 4 Dec 2008 16:59:44 -0500

Will software-based mobile TV kick start PC TV?

Junko Yoshida
(12/04/2008 10:50 AM EST)
URL: http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=212201903

MANHASSET, NY - Has anyone done mobile TV in software?

Armed with a reconfigurable multi-standard tuner IC, Mirics
Semiconductor, a U.K.-based start-up, claims that it still remains the
only company offering a software-based TV and radio demodulator.

Software-based demodulation wasn't the company's original plan, though.
"We wish we could take credit for it, but we stumbled into the idea,
while developing our own demodulator," said Simon Atkinson, Mirics' CEO
Atkinson, during a recent interview with EE Times.

Mirics thus far has done a beta release of software demodulator
solutions that support a number of digital radio and TV standards. They
include AM, FM, DAB, Korea's T-DMB, Europe's DVB-T and Japan's ISDB-T.
Still in development are PAL/NTSC, CMMB, DTMB and ATSC.

However, this hybrid approach -- a tuner in silicon and demodulator in
software -- goes against the grain. Most mobile TV chip companies have
already followed the industry's mandate asking for a single-chip mobile
TV tuner/demodulation solution.

The jury is still out whether Mimics' hybrid approach is a solution
coming to the market too late or it proves to be a ground-breaking
solution that could kick start still a lukewarm mobile TV market.

Target CPU

Mirics' initial target for its software/hardware-based mobile TV
solutions is a X86-based PC platform.

Atkinson revealed that Mirics is also working hybrid solutions for cell
phones, Mobile Internet Devices (MID), and other portable consumer
devices.

While he is not saying when it will be ready, he hinted that the project
will target ARM and leverage an unnamed GPU's accelerator.

By leveraging the existing CPU and memory resource, Mirics hopes it can
eliminate the silicon demodulator, reducing mobile TV's footprint and
cost. Perhaps more important, Mirics faces no development cost necessary
for a complex RF SoC.

Atkinson promises that the hybrid approach will bring down the cost of
digital TV reception on a PC from conventional bill of materials of $15
to less than $5.

TV function will be eventually embedded on a PC motherboard, instead of
a dongle or a Mini Card, said Atkinson.

In Sept., Mirics won its first design-in for its FlexiTV multiband
receiver chip, from Taiwanese wireless module specialist AzureWave
Technologies.

AzureWave (Taipei) is working with several ODMs who will use the module
-- offered in a mini-card format -- in a range of notebook and laptop
PCs scheduled for shipment by the middle of next year.

The progress of PC's CPUs maps out well on Mirics' strategy.

"It's not just about increased clocking speed," said Atkinson.
"Substantial expansion of DSP-like capability, SIMD instruction set and
multimedia signal processing features now capable in CPUs make it
possible to do all these TV demodulation in software."

China play

Meanwhile, Mirics' RF tuner chip -- with the third party's demodulation
chip -- continues to be the company's bread and butter.

Mirics announced Wednesday (Dec. 3rd) a partnership with China's
Spreadtrum Communications, Inc. to deliver mobile TV to portable
personal computers. The solution is based on the China Multimedia Mobile
Broadcasting (CMMB) standard.

Mirics provides RF tuner chip called FlexiRF, while Spreadtrum offers a
home-grown democudator/decoder SoC. Together, the two companies will
bring CMMB-based broadcast mobile TV features to notebook and
sub-notebook PCs.

Gaining a foothold in the Chinese market is a big step for Mirics.

Separately, Mirics is also developing its own CMMB demodulator to run on
a PC's CPU in software.

Whether implemented in a dongle or mini-card, notebook PCs with
analog/digital TV reception capabilities, however, have never really
taken off on the market.

Asked why, Atkinson said, "TV on a PC has to work every time; and it has
to be almost free." By shifting the demodulation task to a CPU, Mirics
hopes its hybrid solution can fuel a PCTV phenomenon that has yet to
catch fire.

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