PARIS -- STMicroelectronics and France Telecom announced here today that they have signed an agreement that gives STMicro worldwide rights to technology that can increase the number of TV channels broadcast by existing satellites.
STMicro is acquiring rights to a patent owned by France Telecom for a technique called Turbo Code Forward Error Correction. In addition, STMicro is working with academic experts on future applications of the technology, including satellite modems for interactive satellite TV, hard disk drives, and wireless telephony.
A chip designed by France Telecom in cooperation with STMicro has already been produced at STMicro's fab in Crolles, France, and STMicro has produced working demonstrations based on the first samples. Customer samples will be available in the current quarter, the multinational chip maker said. STMicro is also integrating Turbo Code technology into its STV0x99 family of digital satellite frontend chips.
For the first application of Turbo Code technology, ST is targeting the U.S. digital satellite receiver market, where it would allow each satellite transponder to deliver from six to eight standard TV channels (or two HDTV channels), compared to four or five standard TV channels today, with additional bandwidth available for Internet download.
STMicro said it believed adoption of Turbo Code technology could create an initial demand for more than 10 million new set-top boxes in the United States and spur its adoption as a worldwide standard. In the European market, where the number of channels offered is not such a competitive feature, the same technology would allow the size of the satellite dish to be reduced by 30% and lead to lower system costs, the Geneva-based company said.
The more efficient use of available bandwidth means that existing satellites could not only broadcast more TV channels, but would also have sufficient bandwidth left over to handle both high-speed Internet downloads and a return channel for use in interactive satellite TV. STMicro plans to introduce a low-cost two-way satellite modem chip based on Turbo Code technology in 2001.
"Turbo Codes are attracting enormous interest because they enable communications technology to approach the theoretical limit of efficiency," said Philippe Geyres, corporate vice president and general manager of STMicro's consumer and microcontroller proups. "By working closely with the inventor of the technology, ST has gained an important advantage in one of the most exciting developments in the communications field, one that could significantly increase the strong leadership ST already has in the market for digital satellite receiver chips," continued Geyres.