PLANO, Tex. -- About two months after acquiring a German RF systems supplier, startup Microtune Inc. here today rolled out its first radio-frequency module for set-top boxes conforming to the OpenCable specifications. The module uses Microtune's TV tuner chip technology, which makes it possible to pack everything needed for RF functionality in a module that's no bigger than standard tuner modules, said John Norsworthy, company founder and chief technical officer.
The MM8838 MicroModule uses Microtune's third-generation device, the 2030-STB, which is optimized for cable TV applications. Engineers at Microtune's RF systems operation in Ingolstadt, Germany, created the new module for two-way communications and conditional access over cable television lines. The FR module is the size of a credit card.
Samples of the module will be available in June and priced at $34.95 each in quantities of 10,000 units. The modules are now being placed into production in the Philippines. Four-year-old Microtune gained RF module engineering and production capabilities when it acquired Temic Telefunken Hochfrequenztechnik GmbH (see Jan. 18 story). "Temic RF," as it's now called in Microtune, was spun out of Daimler Benz AG in a management buyout three years ago.
Microtune's engineering and marketing staff doubled with the acquisition. About 60 people are involved in RF systems development and sales in Germany, while another 60 employees are handling IC tuner products in the north Dallas area, Norsworthy said. In the Philippines, Temic RF's assembly operation employs about 1,200 workers.
The Dallas-area startup believes the new RF module capability will significantly increase its chances of getting MicroTuner chips designed into high-volume cable and television applications. "While some companies are willing to work with RF chips and do their own subsystem designs, the majority prefer a fully verified and tested solution," Norsworthy said.
Microtune said its new MicroTuner 2030 series is a fully-integrated, dual-conversion tuner chip, containing low-noise amplifier, for mixed media (audio, video and data) over cable. Microtune managers claim that competing ICs from Broadcom Corp. and Conexant Systems Inc. are not "single-chip" tuners because they are missing input amplifiers. "What is a true single-chip tuner? We say it must include all the active components," Norsworthy declared.
Like Microtune's previously introduced tuners, the 2030 series is being fabricated by IBM Corp. under a foundry agreement. Reference design platforms and devices are now available for customers developing tuner-on-board solutions. In quantities of 10,000, the MT2030-STB (for digital, interactive set-top boxes) sells for $17.95 each. The cable-modem version, MT2030-CM, sells for $15.95 each. A version for PC/TV applications, called the MT2032-PC, costs $14.95 each, and a digital TV tuner chip, the MT-2032-DTV, sells for $17.95 in quantities of 10,000.