Broadcom gears up to bring UltraHD video into homes

Its BCM7445 silicon platform is designed for service-provider gateways that can deliver UltraHD

As TV makers show off UltraHD TVs at CES, communications chip maker Broadcom is introducing the guts of future gateways that will be able to bring video for those sets into viewers' homes.

Broadcom's BCM7445 silicon platform, announced just hours before the show opened on Tuesday morning, will be able to process incoming video from cable, carrier and satellite services that has four times the resolution of typical 1080p video offered today, according to the company.

Like the eye-catching but expensive TVs on the show floor in Las Vegas, the BCM7445 is just one of the first of many steps to consumers watching UltraHD shows at home. New content, displays and delivery technologies will all be required for the new resolution, which is also known as 4K.

Broadcom expects its chip to be in volume production by the middle of next year, in time for mainstream UltraHD TVs that will probably hit the market for the late 2014 holiday season, said Joe Del Rio, associate product line manager at Broadcom. However, service providers, which will probably be the distributors of most of the gateways built with the BCM7445, may take longer to start sending UltraHD video to their subscribers, Del Rio said.

One technology that may help make that a reality is built in to the new chipset. HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Coding) is a compression standard that will cut by at least half the bandwidth required to send UltraHD video, Del Rio said. Broadcom believes most service providers will choose HEVC for compression, too.

One thing the BCM7445 won't be able to do is let gateways distribute UltraHD video to multiple TVs and other devices around a home. It's designed for boxes to take in the super-resolution programming and send it to the home's main TV. However, the chipset will allow the gateways to send four streams of video in 1080p. UltraHD distribution in homes won't be a high priority at first, because most TVs, not to mention tablets, phones or PCs, won't be able to handle UltraHD video for some time, Del Rio said.

At the core of the silicon platform is Broadcom's Brahma15 application processor, a quad-core ARM-based chip. The BCM7445 is shipping to manufacturers now in sample quantities. It will be available in versions that can connect to cable, satellite or telecommunication carriers' IP (Internet Protocol) TV networks, with options for MOCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) and Homeplug powerline networking within homes, Del Rio said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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