The next generation of AT&T Inc. IP set-top boxes will differ from its old hardware in one noticeable way -- the use of a system-on-a-chip (SoC) from Broadcom Corp. rather than current partner Sigma Designs Inc.. (See Rumor: AT&T Rethinks Set-Top Chips.)
Aidan O'Rourke, Broadcom's senior product marketing director, confirmed to Light Reading that AT&T is in the process of rolling out its chipset in its network. He wouldn't talk specifics or timing, but calls AT&T a very important partner and says that Broadcom will continue to work with the operator, as well as others across the globe.
In Sigma Designs' first-quarter earnings call, CEO Thinh Tran told investors that it would lose exclusivity in AT&T U-Verse STBs "at some point," adding that it will most likely happen in the second half of the year.
The company has been awaiting stiff competition from Broadcom, which is delving more into IPTV STBs and is the only chipset vendor to have completed Microsoft Corp. Mediaroom client integration. (See Sigma vs. Broadcom.)
Broadcom built the Microsoft-approved 7405 SOC with Mediaroom, AT&T's middleware of choice, in mind. O'Rourke says it was designed with a focus on graphics performance, backend audio and video requirements, and security.
AT&T's need for new STBs most likely stems from the growth in advanced features for IPTV in the past year, including 3DTV. The more advanced 3D technologies get, the greater the need for computing power and bandwidth.
O'Rouke says SOCs that can do advanced compression and full-resolution 3D -- not the half-resolution that most operators are dabbling in today -- are not yet available. That next generation will be coming later this year, he says.
"There's a fairly significant trend now in set-top box chips to address basically higher and higher processor performance levels," O'Rourke says. "I think one of the things we'll be doing in our next-gen product line is supporting 3DTV and rolling out next-gen sets of processors on these chips to deliver whole new levels of performance that enable people to run next-gen apps."
â€” Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile