Tuner targets cell phone videos

Paul Boughton

UK chip design startup Miric Semiconductor has developed a reconfigurable tuner that can handle all the current standards for broadcast receivers around the world.

The MSI001 is initially aimed at consumer digital DAB + FM radio receivers and video on mobile phones. As it is reconfigurable, it changes the receiver architecture - from direct conversion to superhetereodyne to dual conversion superhet - depending on the frequency and the protocol.

This also means it can use the most power efficient architecture for the protoco9l, vital for cell phone designs. The chip is configurable via a serial control interface with local registers programmed by a 24bit word. It covers the 100KHz -1.9GHz range, covering LW/MW/SW, L-Band and VHF Bands II, III, and UHF Bands IV and V.

The BiCMOS chip is being made by Jazz Semiconductor in a 0.35um process, and so can be priced at $3.50 in low volumes, making it comparable to the price of FM radio chips in cell phones today. The company is then aiming to support FM, DAB radio, DRM radio, DAB-IP video, DMB-T video, DVB-H video and even the Qualcomm MediaFlo and Chinese MDTV protocols, all through the one tuner. However, separate baseband decoders may be needed to decode the different protocols, although Mirics says it has an announcement coming up in September.

Mirics started three years ago in Fleet, Hampshire, and has the backing of Europe's largest early-stage technology fund, Pond Venture Partners

“The mobile broadcast market is extremely fragmented by multiple standards and band allocations,” said Simon Atkinson, CEO of Mirics. “To date, companies have typically focused on supporting one or two of the multitude of standards. This fragmentation has been identified as the principal bottleneck to the wider adoption of mobile broadcast technologies; the small volumes available for any handset supporting a single standard do not justify its development.”

“The multi-standard TV tuner has been heralded as the 'holy grail ambition' for mobile handset design and is a key development target for our competitors for the next 12 months. Unlike our competitors, Mirics is delivering this technology today, in the form of working silicon which is available to sample now,” he said. “The MSI001 supports all current digital terrestrial broadcast standards, and analogue radio, across all terrestrial broadcast bands. It also has the lowest cost implementation and highest performance of any mobile broadcast receiver currently available.”