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Broadcast TV Lives… With Multiple Incarnations

With the prevalence of cable in many parts of the world, you might think that broadcast TV is on the way out. For people dropping cable, it’s not like they’re going back to receiving the signal over the air; they’re getting their content via the internet instead.

So you might be surprised to hear that there are multiple standards for digital broadcast TV – including even versions intended for mobile platforms like tablets and phones. When you think “mobile” you might be thinking things like handoff and such (more on that below), but it’s really not that complicated. It’s simply digital broadcast in a format that sacrifices quality in order to suit the reduced computing and power needs of mobile devices.

Of course, it would be nice if one standard handled it all. But no, that would be way too easy. There are at least: 5 “terrestrial” standards (for over-the-air broadcast); 3 satellite standards; 4 cable standards, and 6 – count-em – 6 mobile standards. So any machine that will be sold in more than one geography will need to handle more than one standard. Either that or the manufacturer will have the inventory hassle of making different boxes for different places. And with mobile platforms like tablets, you really want the box to do everything if you plan to travel abroad with it.

DSP IP company CEVA thinks you should do them all in software so that the hardware is the same across the board. CEVA has recently announced a reference architecture based on their CEVA-XC platform and an implementation by Idea! (exclamation point is silent… I think…). Such an implementation has a universal RF tuner at one end and a universal audio/video processor at the other, but between those, the demodulator, which is the bit that varies by standard, is handled in software.

You can find more about this in their release.

But meanwhile… on that handoff note… especially as cars get equipped with TV, I think there’s actually room for a simple handoff scheme. Let’s start with radio. There are lots of networks – CBS, NPR, religious ones, and the rock and roll stations identified solely by their mascot animal – the Eagle, the Hawk, the Tapir, the Tapeworm, the whatever… that have lots of local stations all over the country (at least in the US). If you’re on a roadtrip, you know that you’re only in range for a few miles, but you can pick it up later on a different frequency. But where? Well, simply have the system request the new frequency and automatically switch you over to it. Just think: you could head-bang your way across the country with the Full Metal Junket network…

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