Comms chips

BroadLogic Trims D-to-A Costs

BroadLogic Network Technologies Inc. has taken the wraps off a new version of its TeraPIX chipset that, it believes, will enable cable equipment partners to develop and build digital-to-analog gateways at much-reduced unit costs.

The new chipset, the TeraPIX BL81000, is still capable of simultaneously decoding 80 MPEG digital video streams, but adds in two cost-cutting features: direct-to-channel and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aeronautical offset. The first addition provides a direct-to-channel component for programming delivered on channels 2-15, thus reducing the number of required block up-converters and slimming down the overall bill of materials to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The built-in offset element will enable OEMs to insert buffers that offset frequencies used by air traffic control and pilots without the need for yet another block converter. (See BroadLogic Updates Chip.)

With those refinements in place, the BroadLogic chipset requires three, rather than five, block up-converters to support 80 channels, according to company president and CEO Danial Faizullabhoy.

"Our focus in this phase is really [about] paying attention to the system-level design, system-level requirements, and reducing costs and getting the chip ready for high-volume production," he adds, but declines to elaborate on the expected cost of the BroadLogic chip or how many dollars the new features are squeezing out of the total.

BroadLogic, which counts Comcast Interactive Capital and Time Warner Investments among its financial backers, has created a chip that, when housed in an outdoor or inhome gateway, converts incoming digital video channels to analog, making them viewable on all cable outlets in the home without requiring digital set-top boxes or another form of digital decoding device. (See BroadLogic's Disruptive Digital Chip.)

In addition to using techniques like switched digital video (SDV), several cable operators are attempting to gain back bandwidth for high-definition television, Docsis 3.0, and other new services by recapturing analog spectrum. Although the venture capital arm of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is a BroadLogic investor, the MSO has not indicated any plans to use gateways powered by the BroadLogic chipset. Instead, it has discussed an "all-digital" plan that will rely on relatively simple and inexpensive digital terminal adapters (DTAs.) (See Comcast Confirms Digital Dongle Project and Comcast Pursuing $35 Digital Dongle.)

Faizullabhoy says BroadLogic has multiple OEM deals in place. Though none are announced, the company expects to have some of those questions answered by this month's The Cable Show in New Orleans. (See our show coverage.) Faizullabhoy notes that OEMs are looking to have BroadLogic-powered gateways in "reasonable quantities" by this September, ahead of the February 2009 digital TV transition, when most U.S. cable operators are expected to carry analog and digital versions of "must carry" broadcast signals. (See FCC OKs Dual TV Carriage Rules.)

By far, the leading OEM partner candidate is Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). In addition to investing in the chipmaker, Cisco also uses silicon from BroadLogic for some models of Docsis-based Wideband modems. (See BroadLogic, Cisco Team Up and BroadLogic Collects More Cable Cred.)

While BroadLogic's approach may compete with DTA-based efforts, BroadLogic VP of marketing and business development Al Johnson believes TeraPIX-powered gateways offer operators a simpler design and overall lower implementation cost than attaching converter boxes at every cable outlet. "We think a whole-home solution may be better from a consumer [standpoint]," Johnson says. "The number of outlets is almost inconsequential."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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