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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted rules that will smooth the transition to digital television (DTV) for millions of Americans. The FCC’s new “plug-and-play” rules will ensure that most cable systems are compatible with DTV receivers and related consumer electronics equipment.
Congress has determined that current broadcast television service must be completely converted to digital operation. Cable television and other video media are also transitioning to digital. As DTV is delivered digitally, it allows for the delivery of a signal virtually free of interference. DTV broadcasters will be able to offer television with movie-quality pictures and Dolby digital surround- sound, along with other enhancements. DTV technology is more efficient than analog technology and will allow the same number of stations to be broadcast while using less spectrum.
The FCC’s plug-and-play rules are important to the digital transition because they will facilitate the direct connection of digital navigation devices or customer premises equipment, including TV receivers, set-top boxes, and digital recorders that are purchased from retail outlets for use in cable TV systems. A “plug-and-play” digital television is a TV that you can plug directly into your cable system and receive analog and most digital cable services without needing a set-top box. More and more cable services are being provided in digital format, and broadcast stations are transitioning from analog to an all-digital service. Currently, plug-and-play is available for most analog services over cable, but not for digital. Many consumers like the convenience (and cost savings) of receiving cable programming without a set-top box.
Consumers will be able to take their plug-and-play set virtually anywhere in the U.S. and know it will work on cable systems offering digital services. However, digital plug-and-play will not work quite like analog. For digital plug-and-play, you’ll probably need to get a security card (also known as a CableCARD™) from your local cable operator. The security card will permit you to watch the scrambled programming and premium services to which you’re subscribed.
The first generation of plug-and-play sets will receive one-way programming only, including analog basic, digital basic, and digital premium cable programming. If you want to receive advanced digital cable services like video-on-demand, an enhanced program guide, or interactive data-enhanced television service using a first generation set, you will need a set-top box. You may also need a set-top box for other cable operator-provided services, such as a personal video recorder. Negotiations are underway between the cable and consumer electronics industries to establish standards that would permit plug-and-play sets to provide advanced two-way services. .
In addition to the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) specifications for terrestrial module requirements, the FCC has designated the SCTE (Society of Cable and Telecommunication Engineers) to be the responsible standards body for plug-and-play cable specifications. SCTE DVS538 will soon be released to the public as a released cable standard for U.S. DTV. Proto participates in the ATSC and SCTE standards bodies.
All DTV’s shipped into the US must include a digital terrestrial ATSC module as defined by the FCC rules part 15.117. The FCC rules state the following phase-in schedule for both terrestrial and cable plug-and-play (if labeled “digital cable ready”):
Plug-and-play designs are categorized into two different architectures, either dual conversion where the design uses an up-converter to an IF, and then a down-converter to the IF output, or a single-conversion architecture using an MOPLL (Mixer-Oscillator with Phase Locked Loop) device. Although the MOPLL design is lower cost, no one has met the ASTC specification based on the complexity of dealing with image signals within single conversion architectures. For this reason, Proto has introduced a unique single conversion module that includes a special mixer design that removes most of the image during the mixing process. This is called a image reject mixing. Image reject single-conversion ICs offer the lowest cost ATSC receiver solutions possible – and Proto is the leader in these IC solutions.
Proto has a PnP reference design under development.
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