PLANO, Tex. -- Microtune Inc. here today announced it has developed the industry's first silicon-based upconverter chip set for video-on-demand (VOD) applications under a partnership with nCube Corp. The new VideoCaster product shrinks radio frequency electronics into three chips using proprietary circuit designs and silicon-germanium (SiGe) technology, according to Microtune.
The RF chip set reduces upconverter space by 90% and lowers power requirements by 40% compared to existing solutions, said the Dallas-area IC supplier, which is offering the devices in a small module. The VideoCaster module will also cut the cost of the upconverter function by 80%, Microtune said.
According to the company, the three RF chips replace electronics circuits, which are typically found on a 19-inch rack-mounted units in cable headend systems. Microtune said it is packing four of its new chip sets into a fully-tested, production-ready subsystem, called the VideoCaster MT5000 MicroModule. The module is in a 3.5-by-4-inch formfactor.
The launch of the VideoCaster product "signals Microtune's strategic move beyond consumer RF cable access equipment into RF cable infrastructure products," said Douglas J. Bartek, chairman and CEO of Microtune.
The VideoCaster three-chip set is fabricated with SiGe process technology. It is based on a new patent-pending architecture and advanced circuit designs, said Microtune. The radio-frequency ICs take video signal inputs from multiple sources--such as satellite feeds, off-air programming, video servers--boost and condition them and then place the signals in an operator-selectable channel for transmission across the network.
The chip set consists of the MT5011 upconverter device, the MT5012 downconverter IC and the MT1150 driver amplifier. Each chip set handles 10 streams of digital video.
"Microtune's new VideoCaster technology, coupled with nCUBE's video-on-demand architecture, provides a fully integrated platform for broadband cable operators, leading the market in five critical areas --space conservation, throughput, scalability, power efficiency and cost," said Michael Pohl, president of nCUBE in Foster City, Calif. "The Microtune/nCUBE combination offers technology and cost efficiencies that make video-on-demand a more compelling proposition for cable operators.
"At the same time, it is designed for easy incorporation into existing cable networks, while meeting the robust requirements for on-demand offerings and interactive television applications of the future," Pohl said.
In a cable system serving 200,000 homes, a video-on-demand implementation could require up to 2,000 upconverters with 10 channels allocated for digital voice, video, and data services, according to Microtune. The same network could be served with 500 VideoCaster Modules in one-tenth the space at greatly reduced costs, while delivering 20,000 streams of digital video, said the company.
Samples of the VideoCaster MT5000 MicroModule, including the VideoCaster chip sets, are being shipped to nCUBE. Production volumes are slated to begin in 2002. The MicroModule is priced at $1,500 per unit in quantities of 1,000, said Microtune.