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Fresco enjoys explosive growth as hybrid TV booms

Posted: 17 Jun 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:hybrid TV? TV receiver chip? fabless semiconductor? demodulator?

Fabless chip company Fresco Microchip Inc.'s lead product shipments have grown so quickly!literally by the millions!in the short span of a few months.

The company has tripled the production of hybrid TV receiver chips from the initial five million units in the Q1 to 15 million units in June!all in just two quarters. Noting the steep increase, Fresco's CEO Lance Greggain is claiming that his company is "the fastest growing fabless semiconductor company" on the market.

At this ramp rate, Michael Gittings, VP for marketing and business development at Fresco, told EE Times that Fresco is likely to ship 30 million hybrid TV receive chips by year's end.

Fresco's explosive growth has everything to do with the company knowing exactly the definition of an "underserved" market segment, explained Gittings.

At a time when the whole industry is racing to offer all DTV solutions, Fresco has established itself as a leading provider of the hybrid TV receiver chip (analog demodulator chip integrated with a digital interface) that sits between a CAN tuner/silicon tuner and a DTV chip.

In the transition to digital video broadcasting, the industry gave short shrift to supporting analog signal processing.

According to Fresco, more than 350 million hybrid tuners ship each year inside flat-panel TVs, gaming devices, DVD-R/PVRs, STBs and PCs. In fact, most DTV sets sold on the global market today come with an analog TV tuner.

Take Europe, for example. Different European countries are in various stages of the transition to digital TV broadcasting. As system vendors in Europe develop a TV platform to support both digital and analog broadcasts, they usually leave the analog receiver in place, said Gittings.

Even in Japan, CE vendors still use both a silicon tuner and a hybrid analog/digital TV tuner for their DVD-R/PVRs. They use a silicon TV tuner only for digital TV recording, explained Gittings.

Traditionally, TV tuners have been implemented as a module (or "can") consisting of many passive and active components mounted on a small circuit board inside a metal shield enclosure with an RF connector extending from one end for direct connection to an antenna or cable. "TV OEMs had planned on bringing a tuner to the main board, but thus far, they have been unable to do so," said Gittings. This is because the RF connector "needs to remain stable."

Thus, TV OEMs have continued to ask Fresco to work with their tuner can division, he added.

Fresco claims that the company has now become the largest supplier of hybrid TV receiver chips in Europe, replacing NXP Semiconductors. NXP had led the European market in this segment for years until last year.

Rapid ramp up
To deliver hybrid TV receiver chips in volume without delay to customers was certainly not without challenges, especially for a small fabless chip company like Fresco.

"Many chip vendors [working with foundries] had been on allocations. It's been well known that the crunch was across the industry," said Gittings.

Fresco had to double the staff working in its operational dept. and stepped up its efforts. "Luckily, we didn't have too many to start with," said Gittings.

Fresco raced to get qualified for the second fab line within Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.. Fresco also worked on an additional assembly site at Unisem, a provider of semiconductor assembly and test services.

Today, TSMC manufactures Fresco's hybrid TV receiver chips in two separate fab lines in two different regions in Taiwan. Unisem, meanwhile, assembles Fresco's chips in Malaysia, and now in Chengdu, China!a newly added site.

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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