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Cable Technology Feature Article

May 30, 2013

ST, MaxLinear Smooth DTV Transition with Low-Cost STB for Latin America

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Looking to facilitate the move to digital television in Latin America, STMicroelectronics (News - Alert) and MaxLinear Inc. are collaborating on a reference design specifically engineered for that market.

ST will use MaxLinear’s MxL683 integrated free-to-air receiver in the STiH207 reference design, which prescribes a small form factor STB that will enable manufacturers to bring low-cost digital boxes to market quickly, while providing a scalable platform to add advanced features.

The effort is aimed at facilitating the successful switch-off of analog television services in the region. The move to digital TV will then free up spectrum that regional governments can auction off for use in 4G-LTE (News - Alert) mobile high-speed broadband services.

In Brazil, the national telecommunications agency (ANATEL) recently passed legislation to accelerate the adoption of digital television and release the 700MHz RF spectrum for mobile broadband services. The availability of low-cost converter boxes is essential to meet this objective and enable the government to subsidize a large number of boxes for low-income families that cannot afford them. The digital converter boxes are necessary to ensure that homes will continue to receive free television services after the planned analog blackout, which begins in 2015.

“Governments throughout Latin America are following Brazil’s lead and launching programs to free up the ultra-high frequency UHF spectrum for LTE,” said Brian Sprague, vice president and general manager for Broadband and Consumer Products at MaxLinear. “These governments can generate a tremendous amount of money by auctioning off this valuable spectrum to the private sector, and the set-top box solutions we are developing with ST are helping to make this happen.”

The high-performance chipset architecture and CPU can also enable hybrid broadcast plus over-the-top (OTT) video services, and advanced middleware applications like the Ginga open middleware being rolled out in Brazil.

 “Collaboration with MaxLinear enables us to deliver a best-in-class STB system solution to our customers,” said Hervé Mathieu, head of Box (News - Alert) and Gateway Business Lines at ST. “MaxLinear’s market-leading ISDB-T tuner-demodulator technology is a perfect complement to the STiH207 HD STB platform and provides field-proven RF performance at a very affordable price point.”

The analog switch off, which will occur in most Latin America countries between 2016 and 2018, is expected to drive substantial demand for new digital TVs and set-top boxes in the retail market. Dataxis’ NexTV LATAM Consulting, in its DTT in Latin America 2010-2015 report, has estimated that free-to-air TV will remain the most popular choice for TV reception in Latin America and will be used in more than 100 million households in 2017. By 2015, 42 percent of TV sets in Latin America are expected to be digital, and the 75 percent of such devices are expected to be fitted with an integrated DTT receiver.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

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