Set-top box reference design for emerging multi-channel ultra-HD services

April 04, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
MaxLinear Inc., provider of integrated RF and mixed-signal ICs for broadband communications applications, and STMicroelectronics have collaborated to produce a reference design aimed at accelerating the adoption of next-generation Ultra HD set-top boxes (STBs) and gateways for satellite pay-TV operators worldwide.

The reference design accelerates OEM development of the next-generation of STBs and gateways, enabling satellite operators to deliver Ultra HD content using the high-efficiency video-coding (HEVC/ H.265) standard. Combining next-generation technology from ST and MaxLinear, the design supports the most demanding satellite-operator service offerings, including multiple decode, multi-channel personal video recorder (PVR), video-on-demand (VOD), multiple transcoding for streaming to second-screen clients and state-of-the-art graphics, even while maintaining very-low power consumption.

The reference design uses MaxLinear’s MxL5xx family of satellite Full-Spectrum Capture (FSC) receivers, and ST’s pin-compatible STiH312 “Cannes” and STiH412 “Monaco” set-top box system-on-chip (SoC) decoders. The platform supports a full array of end products, from HD HEVC-ready STBs with multiple-channel decoding to high-end servers with “4K” Ultra HD resolution and HEVC decode, along with the display and real-time transcoding of numerous HD streams simultaneously.

Both device families are pin-compatible, making the reference design scalable from four to eight channels and flexible to support either full HD or 4K Ultra HD with or without transcode. The platform can also be adapted for cable MSOs (Multiple System Operators) using the pin-compatible MxL2xx family of cable FSC multi-channel receivers.

The FSC front-end allows satellite operators to support a range of multi-channel features, including fast channel-change time, video streaming to multiple televisions or IP devices, flexible record/watch combinations and progressive VOD in background. Optional terrestrial front-end modules based on MaxLinear’s market-leading terrestrial receiver technology can be added to the platform to enable capture of over-the-air terrestrial broadcast channels.

The Cannes/Monaco SoC design is based on ARM multi-core processors, 2D/3D graphics performance with a Mali GPU, integrated hardware Faroudja multimedia subsystem with HEVC-capable robust video decoder, high-performance video encoder, and high-quality video pre/post processing. The Cannes/Monaco SoC families provide multiple interfaces: PCIe supporting Wi-Fi connectivity, smart-card interfaces, 6 Gbit/sec Gen 3 eSATA interfaces, USB2/3, SPI, I 2C, SDIO and DDR3 memory support for flexible and affordable bill-of-materials HW designs. A security toolbox for