Broadcom Spins Set-Top Chip For Full-Res 3DTV

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Broadcom wants to take cable subscribers deeper into the third dimension, with a supercharged set-top system-on-chip that has more than twice the horsepower of previous generations to deliver full-resolution 3DTV.

The BCM7422 -- designed for media gateway devices that stream IP video in the home -- provides a 1.3-Gigahertz central processor, along with H.264/MPEG codecs that enable 1080p high-definition video and full-resolution HD 3DTV. The SoC also features a 1-gigapixel-per-second 3D graphics processing unit for advanced 3D graphics acceleration, as well as home networking connectivity including MoCA and DLNA support.

"This lets operators deliver video content to multiple devices, and it provides a platform for powerful graphics processing," said John Gleiter, Broadcom senior director of marketing for set-top box products.

Even though 3DTV sales to date have been disappointing, Broadcom foresees growing interest among consumers in the format. "Operators are supporting 3D today on MPEG-4 devices, but there's strong demand and pull for full 3D," Gleiter said.

The new Broadcom chip supports both Scalable Video Coding (SVC) and Multiview Video Coding (MVC) standards. MVC, the spec used in 3D Blu-ray Disc players, uses two separate full HD streams, whereas SVC uses an "enhancement" stream for the second-eye image that can reduce bandwidth by 40% to deliver full 3D video.

Meanwhile, the SoC supports up to eight external MPEG tuners, with the ability to terminate encrypted programming, encapsulate broadcast video into IP, and deliver multiple video streams to IP set-tops or other devices in the home.

Broadcom has provided samples of the SoC to customers, which Gleiter declined to identify. The company anticipates products with the 7422 SoC to enter field trails by mid-2011, with commercial deployments before the end of 2011. Existing Broadcom set-top customers include Motorola, Pace and Technicolor.

The 7422 is designed in 40-nanometer complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) silicon technology, which can pack in more than two times the number of transistors as Broadcom's prior-generation 65-nm SoCs for about the same unit cost, according to Gleiter.

Overall, the SoC delivers 6000 Dhrystone million instructions per second (DMIPS) of processing power. "We have customers designing products around this that require this type of performance level," Gleiter said.

In addition to the BCM7422, which has integrated MoCA support, Broadcom is providing the 7421, which omits the MoCA chip and costs 10% to 15% less.

The SoCs support a variety of development environments, including Adobe Flash Platform for TV, Webkit HMTL 5.0, Java, Qt, DLNA 1.5, and DirectFB application libraries. "This gives operators more flexibility to change the user interface," Gleiter said.

According to Gleiter, Broadcom also is working on a full Google TV implementation for customers and already offers a port of the Android operating system for its SoC platforms.

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