Michael Keller, Semiconductor Insights(12/24/2007 9:00 AM EST), EE Times
Although mobile phone and WLAN transceivers made the transition to silicon ICs years ago, solid-state TV tuners have been slower off the starting block. Recently, several companies have started to offer IC-based TV receivers that will replace the traditional "can tuner."
The past decade has witnessed significant technological innovation in television products: high-definition digital TV, flat-panel displays and stereo audio. In addition, Microsoft Windows XP Media Center has created a booming market for TV reception on the PC. What's more, there is a growing demand for multimedia capabilities on mobile handheld devices to allow a consumer to watch live TV or download video. Added to all these innovations is the imminent worldwide transition in TV broadcasting from analog to digital modulation.
The digital TV revolution is developing rapidly; indeed, in some jurisdictions, analog broadcasts have already ceased. However, to minimize the impact on viewers and to facilitate a smooth transition, many governments have mandated the coexistence of legacy analog (i.e., NTSC, PAL and Secam) and digital (i.e., DVB-T, ISDB-T and ATSC) signals until Feb. 17, 2009. Thus, in many regions, digital TV conversion will span many years, and hybrid broadcast systems represent a significant market.
Interestingly, almost all TV sets and digital-to-analog set-top converter boxes for legacy analog TVs still use low-tech, power-hungry "can tuner" modules, which consist of hundreds of discrete components. The "can tuner" is so called for a good reason: The discrete fixed and tunable inductors, along with individual transistors, are housed in large (often 2 x 4-inch) metal enclosures to minimize RF interference. The manual intervention required to "tune" all these separate components leads to time-consuming manufacture and test processes.
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