Toshiba offers new MPEG-4 videophone chip

The device, which is expected to be available in mass quantities from the fourth quarter of this year, combines almost everything necessary to receive and decode a digital video stream encoded in the MPEG-4 standard, the company said in a statement. The chip also includes an encoder, which means it is capable of creating an MPEG-4 stream from a video image, thus making it suitable for two-way videoconferencing.

An improvement on an earlier device announced in February 2000, the chip has an onboard MPEG-4 video encoder and decoder, a speech encoder and decoder, an audio and video multiplexer and 12MB of DRAM (dynamic random access memory). All of this adds up to support for QCIF (Quarter Common Interface Format) images (144 by 176 pixels) at 15 frames per second.

Devices such as this chip are expected to play a major part in future cellular telephones. Third-generation mobile networks, the first of which is expected to be launched by NTT DoCoMo in Tokyo in late May, have sufficient capacity to support two-way video communication, although the network is only one side of the infrastructure. To realise such services, the telephones must also be able to support videoconferencing, and chips such as the new Toshiba device enable them to do that.

Aiming at cellular telephones, Toshiba produced the chip using 0.18 micron production and an FBGA (fine ball grid array) package that has reduced the size to just 11 millimetres square. The inclusion of multiple components on a single chip also helps reduce power consumption.

News of the chip comes less than a month after the Japanese electronics giant announced a companion MPEG-4 decoder chip, the TC35274XB. That product is designed to be used in devices that receive video streams and will go on sale sometime during the first quarter.

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