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Startup fields universal mobile TV chip

Posted: 13 Sep 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile TV chip? processor core?

MediaPhy Corp., a 25-employee fabless chip company has launched on Sept. 12 what the company calls an "all CMOS single-die worldwide mobile TV chip," EE Times has learned.

MediaPhy's engineering team, based in India, has integrated RF and baseband parts on a single-die, using a 130nm RF CMOS manufacturing process at foundry chip supplier Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The chip is designed to work with three different mobile TV standards including DVB-H, DVB-T in Europe, Japan's ISDB-T 1, 3, 13 segments and T-DMB/DAB commercialized in Korea. The only other chip vendor that has already rolled out a single-die, RF/baseband mobile TV SoC is Newport Media Inc. Other leading mobile TV chip companies such as DiBcom SA and Siano Mobile Silicon provide such tuner/demodulator combinations in System In Package (SIP) form. MediaPhy, a startup company founded in October 2004, is due to start sampling its chip next month.

Smart chip
While MediaPhy was not present at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in Germany, competing technology suppliers in search of one big robust mobile TV market over the last 12 months appeared almost weary of yet another chip company claiming to solve the world's mobile TV standards dilemma.

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

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

Nonetheless, Terry Leeder, MediaPhy's CEO and president, is confident that his company's product offers a key differentiationthe lowest power consumption in mobile TV reception/demodulation. The company claims that its multimode chip consumes 120mW of power in DVB-T, with DVB-H at 20mW. It consumes 80mW in ISDB-T 1-seg and 120mW in ISDB 13-seg, according to the company.

This, for example, compares to Siano's multimode tuner/demodulator chip, supporting DVB-T, DVB-H and a number of variations of DMB/DAB, which consumes 190mW in DVB-T. Newport Media's DVB-H/T single IC RF tuner and demodulator SoC, in contrast consumes 200mW in DVB-T mode.

DSP-less architecture
Featured in MediaPhy's chip, called the MP2011 Solo, is its DSP-less, hardware engine-based design. While it uses Tensilica's processor core as its CPU core, the chip has no DSP overhead in clock speed and requires no program memory. It enables a low digital clock speed and the lowest always-on power, according to Leeder.

The chip comes with a unique, configurable OFDM architecture. Capable of configuring a set of small codes to each of the register set, it performs multimode functions with no die-size overhead. Its hardware-based design enables high MIPS and low clock speed.

Each of five FFT engines inside the chip, performing unique functions of a specific part of OFDM, can be turned off individually and sequentially, before and after use.

MP2011 Solo also requires a minimal number of external components, according to MediaPhy. The single CMOS die eliminates sub-block interface components. The Zero IF direct conversion radio requires no IF SAW filters and other components such as low noise amplifier (LNA), capacitors, inductors and all necessary memory blocks.

Beyond being an all CMOS single-die mobile TV, MediaPhy's chip's claim-to-fame is that it supports multiple standards, not counting Qualcomm's MediaFLO and China's home-grown specifications. By adding support for ISDB-T and T-DMB/DAB in addition to DVB-H, MediaPhy's 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 wherever the mobile TV market grows fastest.

Whether handset vendors would buy this 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 "multimode allows a Japan 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 within the same country, just for voice, are already complex. True multimode mobile handsets with TV reception capabilities are not exactly top-priority for any mobile service provider in today's world.

MediaPhy's first chip, housed in a 7mm x 7mm clear mold flatpack package (CFP), will be priced at "$7 to $8" in high volume, according to the company. The company will start mass production of a smaller-die version, featuring the same pin-outs, in Q1 2008.

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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