A prototype mounting the new module (indicated by an arrow) on a USB dongle
A prototype mounting the new module (indicated by an arrow) on a USB dongle
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Sharp Corp announced Dec 4, 2007, that it has developed a small tuner module in compliance with the Chinese terrestrial digital broadcast specifications.

The module features very small dimensions of 10.7 x 10.7 x 1.4mm, integrating a tuner IC and an OFDM decoder IC into a single chip. It can be applied to USB tuners targeting PCs and PDAs, for example. Sharp said it will start sample shipments in January 2008 and establish a volume production system by the end of March 2008. Pricing for the sample is ¥30,000.

"GB20600-2006," a Chinese terrestrial digital broadcast format, which is also called "DTMB (digital terrestrial multimedia broadcasting)," was officially announced in Aug 2006. Unlike Japanese ISDB-T 1seg broadcasts, the Chinese mobile broadcast technology can use HDTV signals without converting them.

"It can be described as an HDTV tuner geared for mobile applications," said Sharp. Depending on broadcasters, existing SDTV signal broadcasts can be chosen as well.

Sharp developed this module by greatly downsizing its "CAN type" module, which it already shipped for set top boxes (STBs) and some other applications on the Chinese market. Compared with the CAN type's 52 x 35.9 x 13.4mm dimensions, the new module is less than 1/100 of the size.

The tuner IC embedded with the module is Sharp's proprietary development. "As our competitiveness is derived from this IC and our high-density packaging technology, we will manufacture the IC in Japan," Sharp said.

Meanwhile, the SoC that integrates a TDS-OFDM modulation decoder IC and an LDPC error-correcting code processing IC is a product manufactured by Legend Silicon Corp.

"Legend Silicon locates its headquarters in the US, but in fact, is a semiconductor manufacturer originating in China. The company is therefore familiar with Chinese specifications and that's Legend Silicon's great advantage," said Sharp.

Expected applications are "mobile terminals other than mobile phones," such as notebook PCs, PDAs, car navigation systems, portable DVD players, USB tuners and smartphones, Sharp said.

Mobile phones are not included in target applications because "the module's standard power of 530mW is too large for mobile phones. We are, however, currently miniaturizing design rules for both the tuner and ICs for the digital section in an effort to lower the module's power consumption. Our current target is about 100mW."

The rear side of the module. Sharp did not specify if the IC on the rear surface was a tuner IC or an OFDM decoder IC.
The rear side of the module. Sharp did not specify if the IC on the rear surface was a tuner IC or an OFDM decoder IC.
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Demonstrating reception of a broadcast using weak radio wave. An "ultra small station" antenna is sitting behind the PC.
Demonstrating reception of a broadcast using weak radio wave. An "ultra small station" antenna is sitting behind the PC.
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