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Why Broadcom's Full-Band Tuner Is Cool

One of the more interesting cable technology breakthroughs announced last week wasn’t actually on the Cable Show floor.

In a hotel suite at the boutique James Hotel in Chicago, Broadcom privately showed what it claimed is the industry’s first fully digital “full-band capture” tuner chip — able to tune anywhere in the 50 MHz to 1 GHz downstream spectrum.

That promises to provide a lot more flexibility in how cable operators deploy the next generation of set-tops, gateways and DOCSIS modems that include the Full-Band Capture tuner.

Here’s why: With the “FBC,” any demodulator can tune to any frequency — using just one chip. “That’s a big advantage for an operator, because now they can add services on frequencies anywhere in the spectrum,” said Jay Kirchoff, Broadcom’s VP of marketing for cable broadband.

Currently digital tuners typically span a dedicated 100-MHz range; that means to provide tuning across the full band would require as many as nine individual tuners. It also has forced MSOs to place services (e.g., DOCSIS downstream channels) on contiguous frequencies.

Other benefits: The full-band tuner reduces space requirements (so the customer premises equipment can be in a smaller form factor) and cuts power consumption by more than 50%, according to Broadcom.

Broadcom’s Full-Band Capture is integrated in three new 40-nanometer hybrid IP cable set-top box and DOCSIS 3.0 gateway system-on-a-chip solutions: the 8-QAM BCM3128 and 4-QAM BCM3124, and the 400-Mbps BCM3383 DOCSIS 3.0 cable gateway SoC (which, interesting side note, includes dual-band Wi-Fi with simultaneous 2.4 and 5.0 GHz streams).

Kirchoff said the SoCs with Full-Band Capture began sampling to customers in the last 60 days.


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