CES: Broadcom Debuts Chips for 1-Gig Cable Modems, Ultra HD Set-Tops

Chip Company's 4K TV Decoder Uses HEVC Compression

Las Vegas -- Broadcom is unveiling its first gigabit-speed DOCSIS 3.0 integrated circuit and also is introducing what it claims is the world’s first Ultra HD TV video decoder chip, even though Ultra HD televisions today are pricey and years away from mass-market adoption.

Broadcom’s fourth-generation DOCSIS 3.0 system-on-a-chip solution, the BCM3384, provides the ability to perform channel bonding across up to 24 downstream channels (for throughput speeds up to 960 Megabits per second in North American cable systems) and eight upstream channels (for up to 240 Mbps).

Broadcom was beaten to market with a 1 Gbps cable modem chip by Intel, which introduced its Puma 6 chip last year.

But Jay Kirchoff, Broadcom vice president of marketing for cable broadband, said just as important as being able to receive nearly 1 Gig into the home is being able to distribute inside the home. Broadcom is pushing its “5G” Wi-Fi chips, which support the IEEE 802.11ac standard, for delivering gigabit Wi-Fi speeds.

“Our gateway designs show why you would want 16 or 24 channels,” he said. “This is the first cable gateway product of its kind that can consume and distribute data around the home at gigabit rates.”

Products based on the BCM3384 are expected to start hitting the market later in January, according to Kirchoff. “This is not a preannouncement,” he said. “We have been working directly with our customers for their designs.”

In addition, Broadcom is introducing the BCM33843, supporting up to 16 downstream and four upstream channels (640 Mbps down and 120 Mbps up). This chip is pin-compatible with its previous-generation BCM3383 DOCSIS 3.0 cable gateway system-on-a-chip (which is 8x4) and also uses the same software and system design. That’s intended to let cable modem makers fairly easily double the downstream speeds of their existing product lines. 

Both the BCM3384 and 33843 feature full-band capture digital tuners covering the entire 1 GHz downstream spectrum of a cable plant.

Meanwhile, Broadcom also is featuring its BCM7445 Ultra HD-capable chip at the show.

The chip will use the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard, which is at least twice as efficient as MPEG-4 and four times as efficient as MPEG-2. Those compression gains are important, given that UltraHD TV technology, also known as 4K, display four times the resolution of today’s 1080p “full HD” displays.

The final HEVC spec is expected to be ratified by mid-2013, said Joseph Del Rio, associate product line director in Broadcom’s broadband communications group. Samples of the BCM7445 Ultra HD TV video decoder for the home are now available, with volume production expected in mid-2014.

“This will be a year when we’re all educating consumers about 4K,” Del Rio said, acknowledging that there are “crazy prices” of $20,000 to $30,000 for the first Ultra HD television sets.

Over the next few years, only high-end set-top boxes from pay-TV providers will add HEVC, according to analyst firm MRG, which predicts more than 2 billion devices – mostly smartphones -- will include the advanced compression coded by 2016.

The BCM7445 is 28-nanometer, ARM-based chip set that features the new Brahma15 21,000 DMIP CPU, four 1080p30 real-time transcoders and HEVC compression that delivers resolution up to 4,096-by-2,160 at 60 frames per second.

Also Tuesday, Broadcom announced a single-chip MoCA 2.0 gateway solution, providing up to 1 Gigabit per second speeds inside the home. The BCM6802 MoCA 2.0 system-on-a-chip is designed for applications such as cable, DSL or GPON modems, routers, bridges and wireless access points.

The MoCA 2.0 specification is supported by TV operators across North America including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon's FiOS, Rogers Communications and Cogeco.

Broadcom’s BCM6802 MoCA 2.0 gateway solution provides channel bonding to support 800 Mbps over 16 nodes and up to 1Gbps for channel-bonded Turbo mode. The SoC is currently sampling.

Finally, Broadcom announced what it touted as the industry’s first 5G Wi-Fi-connected IPTV set-top box platform. The solution combines the BCM43526 5G Wi-Fi chip -- which supports the IEEE 802.11ac wireless standard -- with the vendor’s BCM7241 IPTV set-top box SoC, which features 5000DMIPS total processing power and 1080p60 HD decode.

The BCM7421+ BCM43526 wireless-on-motherboard reference design is available now, according to Broadcom.