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Cable Technology Feature Article

April 29, 2013

Broadcom, STMicro Neck-and-Neck for STB Silicon Dominance

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Broadcom (News - Alert) and STMicro tied in unit shipments for the worldwide set-top box IC Market in 2012, with both delivering between 85 and 86 million video systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) for set-top boxes, according to ABI Research (News - Alert).

However, the two can’t be said to present the same level of success. “While Broadcom and STMicro tied in unit shipments, Broadcom’s footprint captures significantly higher-value design wins within the North American and Western European cable and satellite markets; therefore, Broadcom does significantly better from a revenue standpoint,” said ABI Research practice director Sam Rosen.

He added that STMicro is in a strategically not-as-solid position. STMicro’s Digital Convergence (News - Alert) Group, which is responsible for set-top boxes (and has been the subject of continual business unit jiggering), has gotten very narrow, losing significant connectivity business to focus primarily on DTV and set-top boxes.

STBs in fact represent nearly 80 percent of the group’s revenue, he said. And that translates to a non-diversification that represents a certain amount of business model and financial risk.

Ali Technology came in third place, after seeing significant growth within free-to-air terrestrial boxes by Chinese OEMs. Ali delivered an impressive 65 million SoCs, ABI found.

STBs can be a bonanza for silicon. High-end set-top boxes often include a video SoC, tuner/demodulator, MoCA chipset and networking chip, for example. And that’s made it difficult to get a handle on just how many SoCs are actually being sold.

“The set-top box IC market has continued to be in a strange over-reporting situation for four years,” said Rosen. “Vendors’ public claims and internal counts of STB SoC shipments exceed the number of set-top box shipments by 5 percent to 25 percent, depending on year, for each of the last four years, even after accounting for the separate chips integrated in complex set-top boxes.”

The adjacent smart set-top box market, coupled with possible blurring between the STB and digital TV markets could explain some of this over reporting, Rosen said.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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