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Broadcom Chips In For Comcast's DTA Rollout

Broadcom is supplying a digital-to-analog system-on-a-chip to at least three manufacturers—Thomson, Motorola and Pace Micro Technology—that are incorporating the component into low-cost converter boxes being built to Comcast’s specifications.

Broadcom’s low-power, single-chip BCM3545 converts an incoming digital MPEG-2 video stream into an analog output. That allows a cable system to eliminate the need to transmit analog TV channels over the network without forcing basic subscribers to upgrade to a digital tier, thereby freeing up space for additional data or video services.

“It’s a classic, simple set-top box chip,” said John Gleiter, Broadcom’s senior director of marketing for cable set-top boxes worldwide.

Comcast executives have told Wall Street that it wants to use such DTA devices to eliminate most analog TV channels in about 20% of its footprint by the end of 2008. Multichannel News reported that the MSO has ordered up to 6 million DTAs for delivery this year from Thomson, Motorola and Pace.

The BCM3545 costs less than $10 per chip in quantity, Gleiter said, noting that Broadcom has received production orders for the component. The DTA chip, which Broadcom began developing in early 2008, is based on the earlier-generation BCM3543 system-on-a-chip that is used in many terrestrial broadcast designs.

The 65-nanometer chip consumes less than 2 watts and can be set in “sleep” mode when the DTA box is not being used to reduce power consumption to one-tenth of a watt.

A DTA would also need the BCM3409 Tuner Chip, which tunes to the digital frequency of a channel that a viewer has selected. The BCM3409 is “a few dollars” apiece, Gleiter said.