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Trident Pokes at Broadcom's DTA Chip Lead

Trident Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: TRID) is taking a stab at a market dominated by Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) with the introduction of a "universal" Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) chipset that enables the simple channel-zapper boxes to run on Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)- and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)-based digital cable networks.

Trident claims the chip, dubbed the CX24482, is the first to offer support for a new breed of universal DTAs (uDTAs) that conform to Comcast's specs for a "next-generation" version of the digital-to-analog converter boxes, which the MSO is using to help fuel its massive "Project Cavalry" analog reclamation project. (See Comcast Sends In the All-Digital 'Cavalry' and Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan .)

"We have some [uDTAs] in field trials with deployment planned for later this year," a Comcast spokeswoman told Light Reading Cable in an emailed response to questions.

Trident's chipset supports the embedded DTA security mechanisms employed by Cisco and Motorola. Cisco has yet to offer much detail about its DTA encryption approach, but Motorola's uses "Privacy Mode," a fixed-key system used by some cable video-on-demand (VoD) applications. Trident says it has achieved certification from Cisco and Combined Conditional Access Deployment and Support LLC (CCAD), the Comcast-Moto next-gen conditional access joint venture. (See Comcast Lights Up DTA Encryption .)

Trident did not say which suppliers are using the new chipset, but Mark Samuel, VP of Trident's set-top box business unit, says three to four vendors, including two "major" box makers, are already using the company's new uDTA chipset: "It is already in deployment in the field in large volumes."

Motorola, Cisco, Pace plc , and Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH) (formerly Thomson) are Comcast's DTA suppliers of record.

However, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , which is believed to be supplying DTAs to Suddenlink Communications and Mediacom Communications Corp. with a foot in the door to do the same at Comcast, showed off a dongle-like universal DTA model at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo in Denver last fall. Huawei recently obtained three-year waivers from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to sell two DTA models that use embedded security. (See Huawei Breaks US Set-Top Seal and Huawei Gets Box Break at the FCC .)

Comcast, meanwhile, isn't offering any details on whose uDTAs it's putting into service early on. The MSO is "working with a number of OEMs on that project," a company spokeswoman noted.

The introduction of the CX24482 marks Trident's first significant cable-related announcement since acquiring the TV and set-top box business lines of NXP Semiconductors N.V. (Nasdaq: NXPI) in February. (See Trident, NXP Seal the Deal .)

Battling with Broadcom
Trident's new chip also provides Comcast with a second source for DTA silicon, threatening Broadcom's position with the MSO.

Although Trident claims its uDTA chipset achievement as a "first," it's not the first to announce such a product. Broadcom unveiled its uDTA chipset, the BCM7002, in February. Like Trident, Broadcom's new entry is based on Comcast's next-gen DTA specs, which include an integrated 1GHz tuner and "switchable content protection" so it can adapt to Moto- and Cisco-based cable networks on the fly. (See Broadcom Chips In Next-Gen DTA.)

Broadcom hasn't released a list of uDTA customers. However, Evolution Digital LLC, which recently obtained an FCC waiver for a universal DTA, has already picked Broadcom silicon for that particular product, according to Evolution president Brent Smith. "In addition to their excellent product support, they [Broadcom] have some great features like 'fast channel change,' which dramatically improves the customer’s user experience," he told us, via email.

Zoran Corp. (Nasdaq: ZRAN) is also said to be developing silicon for DTAs but has not been linked to the Comcast project.

The new breed of universal DTA chipsets also aims to reduce the physical size, power, consumption, and overall bill of materials for the devices. The initial Comcast models, which are designed to operate only on Motorola networks, cost less than $35 per unit. (See DTAs Getting Smaller, Cheaper & 'Universal'.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:40:00 PM
re: Trident Pokes at Broadcom's DTA Chip Lead Broadcom, by the way, notes that its chip has been in "been in high volume production for some time" and that the product also has been certified by Cisco and CCAD. JB
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