Chinese company comes to IBC with DAB+, T-DMB chip

LONDON — Fabless startup Maxscend Technologies Inc. (Shanghai, China) is set to bring DAB+ and T-DMB back to Europe in chip form when it exhibits at the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The company, founded in April 2006, has designed and started shipping, a DAB/DAB+/DMB demodulator IC which can be used for mobile digital television (MDTV) reception in mobile phones, personal media players, USB dongles, and vehicle entertainment systems. The chip, the MXD0120, which went into production in April, only one year after the formation of the company, and has won design-ins with local Chinese mobile phone manufacturers Bird and Techfaith Wireless, the company claimed.

The DAB+ standard, published by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in February 2007, is the latest audio codec standard developed by the WorldDMB organization. DMB is an offshoot of DAB which was originally developed as a pan-European research project under the Eureka project number EU147. DMB was developed in South Korea under the national IT project and the world's first official DMB broadcast started in South Korea in 2005.

Maxscend has focused on minimizing the size and power consumption of its chip – the two factors that are key to mobile equipment. The MXD0120 chip, housed in a 5-mm by 5-mm package has a worst-case power consumption of 18-mW during full channel capacity reception and the demodulator has been tested against extreme conditions in terms of low signal strength and speed of movement, the company said.

Test results show that it can receive a weak signal down to -102dbm. Field tests on Maglev trains also demonstrate that MXD0120 works well at a speed above 400 kilometers per hour (about 250 miles per hour).

The MXD0120 accepts an intermediate frequency, low IF or zero IF signal from the RF tuner. The device consists of a dual-channel 10-bit ADC, the OFDM demodulator, full capacity time de-interleaver, Viterbi decoder, Reed-Solomon decoder, outer de-interleaver, and time/frequency synchronization unit. By integrating the ADC and outer decoder the MXD0120 supports the T-DMB application with minimum load on a host processor.

The chip operates from 1.2-V supply to the core and 1.8-V to 3.3-V for I/O and is manufactured for Maxscend by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (Hsinchu, Taiwan) in a 0.13-micron manufacturing process technology.

The DAB/T-DMB is one of several mobile digital television standards fighting for supremacy and de facto adoption. But more than 40 countries have started tests, trials or commercial launches of broadcasting services, according to Maxscend.

China has already adopted DAB as its digital audio broadcasting standard although the country has yet to make a decision on which standard, or standards will be deployed for MDTV. DAB/T-DMB based mobile TV broadcasting services have been launched in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong and it is expected that China's MDTV market will experience a significant growth period before the 2008 Olympic Games.

Maxscend has also demonstrated its DAB+ credentials by linking up with Coding Technologies GmbH (Nurnberg, Germany), Factum Electronics AB (Linkoping, Sweden) and Future Waves Pte. Ltd. (Taipei, Taiwan) to perform a demonstration of a complete DAB+ signal chain from headend to receiver.

DAB+ offers broadcasters higher flexibility and reduced costs per channel compared with the original DAB specification. It is likely to be adopted by countries deploying their first DAB systems, such as Australia, China, India, Malaysia and Singapore. However, for countries such as the United Kingdom DAB+ is less likely to be deployed in the near term because transmissions would not be received by an established base of DAB receivers.

“Factum is the leading supplier of head end solutions for DAB, DAB+ and T-DMB, with professional customers in more than 40 countries all over the world. We are welcoming the new possibilities that DAB+ adds
to digital radio,” said Kenneth Lundgren, managing director of Factum Electronics, in a statement issued by Maxscend.

The founding team of Maxscend consists of Silicon Valley alumni who have returned to China with many years of R&D, management and China local business experience. The company has been funded with venture capital by Sequoia Capital and angel investors.

Maxscend is scheduled to exhibit on the World DMB Forum booth at the IBC exhibition in Amsterdam.

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