Microtune maps out mobile TV tuner strategy.

TV tuner specialist Microtune is planning to ride the integration wave for future devices targeting the mobile TV sector. The company's roadmap sees the tuner and baseband integrated into a mobile phone's applications processor as the market takes off for good quality mobile TV within two years.

"Some kind of vertical integration where the RF component and tuner are closer to the processor makes a lot of sense," Jim Fontaine, Microtune's president and CEO told EE Times . As a step towards this, Fontaine suggested second generation tuner/demodulator combinations would mostly be SIP packages by next year.

However, asked whether Microtune would look to offer integrated demodulator IC and RF tuner combinations, Fontaine suggested that is not the direction for his company. "DiBcom (Palaiseau, France) felt compelled to go down this path with its baseband, perhaps to beat the Hollywood hype from Texas Instruments, but we will not."

Fontaine was referring to the French company's plans to offer an integrated package much like the Hollywood chip set being readied for mobile TV by TI.

"Our goal is to provide high-performance tuners to as wide a market as possible, while permitting our customers to cost effectively develop multi-market end products. In the process, we expect to solidify a leadership position as the preferred RF supplier to major consumer electronics manufacturers."

Fontaine said Microtune's DVB-H tuners are already used in the majority of mobile phones capable of receiving mobile TV, including the LG Electronics handset that is heralding the first commercial service in Italy in time for the World Cup that kicked off last Friday (June 9).

The LG U900 also uses DiBcom's DVB-H demodulator IC to receive mobile TV services. A multimedia chip from Renesas is used to decode the digital mobile TV streams compressed in H.264 video and AAC+ audio.

"DiBcom seems to us to be the only baseband chip out in the market at the moment. There is a lot of hype about the business from companies such as Texas Instruments, Siano Mobile and Philips Semiconductors, and a lot of products have been announced, but we do not see other people's baseband silicon out there yet," Fontaine told EE Times .

Fontaine said the company plans to develop multi-standard, poly-band, universal TV tuners that would help drive the development of the global market for mobile and portable TV. The road map calls for expansion of the existing ATSC, DVB-T and DVB-H-based products to include universal tuners.

He said the football World Cup will "rigorously test the entire broadcasting system, while spurring interest, demand and deployments," of mobile TV. However, he warned that the roll-out of the technology would suffer if coverage of the initial commercial services is not up to users' expectations.

"We don't see any problems ahead, but the Quality of Service in these early implementations will be absolutely vital," said Fonatine. He said the handsets will need to deliver high-quality, consistent TV pictures on the small LCD screens.