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CES Feature Articles

January 08, 2013

Broadcom Delivers First UltraHD TV Home Gateway Chip


We all knew going into the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES (News - Alert)) that there was going to be a lot of noise made around video, TVs and set top boxes. CES has not failed us on these expectations, coming at us from all directions - from chipsets to huge TVs with facial recognition capability…and a whole lot more. Now Broadcom (News - Alert) - which has long delivered wired and wireless semiconductor solutions in the areas of voice, video, data and multimedia connectivity for the home, office and mobile environments - joins in on the CES TV news front this morning.




The company announced this morning its first - and the world’s first - Ultra High Definition Television (UltraHD TV) video decoder solution to hit the market. At least according to Broadcom, though the claim is accurate as far as we are able to discern.

Broadcom believes that the company's new BCM7445 represents a key first step for delivering UltraHD TV into the home. The challenge here is to deliver extremely high levels of performance and picture quality. It's all about enhanced processing power, and with the new ARM (News - Alert)-based BCM7445, Broadcom believes it now has the key piece - the primary gateway, so to speak - to delivering on the needed processing capability.

The BCM7445 delivers the needed transcoding, CPU processing performance and home networking throughput to support a much greater range of applications such as Video on Demand (VoD), gaming, social media and Web store applications. It will also be critical for provisioning VoD services over wireless networks.

The delivery of UltraHD TV requires a more efficient compression codec, which has been made possible by the emergence of the new High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard. HEVC speeds Internet video downloads giving operators and users the ability to download content such as movies in half the time and with higher quality video, at 50 percent of the bit rate previously required.

The more technically knowledgeable among us are familiar with both the MPEG-4 and H.264 video standards. HEVC will replace these and will be dubbed MPEG-5 or H.265. HVEC is necessary for broadcasting UltraHD content. The next stage in consumer video will be about larger video displays, and as good as HD is today, larger displays - especially those now emerging beyond 80 inches (such as Samsung's (News - Alert) just announced 85 inch TV) will require  UltraHD and HEVC to deliver a next level of palpable and stunning visual clarity.

Dan Marotta, Broadcom’s EVP and GM for its Broadband Communications Group notes that, “The clarity and brilliance of UltraHD television is a significant step forward in viewing enjoyment and is the next true evolution in TV innovation. By integrating HEVC, Quad 1080p transcoding, quad-core CPU, gigabit networking speeds and web domain security, Broadcom is enabling a dramatic improvement in the TV viewing experience while making UltraHD video delivery economics work for service providers.”

This all represents a significant achievement.

UltraHD TV displays deliver four times the resolution of today’s generation of HD, 1080p displays. UltraHD TV technology has long been referred to as 4K for this reason, though the industry has now settled on the UltraHD term. The quality of the displays is stunning - and easily matches the sense of difference between old analog TV's and the first wave of "almost" affordable flat panel HD TVs that emerged around 2000 - 2002. The coming mass market consumer availability of the technology - very likely to take place around mid-2014 - at "almost affordable" prices (which is what Marotta means when he mentions video delivery economics) defines a new marker in the overall video resolution timeline.

Key Features

The BCM7445 is based on 28 nanometer process technology. It features the new Brahma15 CPU, four 1080p30 real-time transcoders and HEVC compression that will deliver resolution up to 4096x2160p60.

The BCM7445 also features Web domain security. This is an industry hardware security capability that separates Internet services from premium broadcast content. It provides protection for critical core network functions against malware threats, paving the way for operators to securely converge and deliver pay TV programming and open Internet applications to subscribers for a Web-based TV experience.

For the technically curious, the Brahma15 is a Quad-core ARMv7-A instruction set compatible multiprocessor, with 32 KB instruction and 32 KB data caches per processor, which in turn are backed by a shared 2 MB L2 cache. A 32 KB read-ahead cache between the L2 cache and the memory controllers provides 8KB of read latency reduction per processor.

The Brahama15 supports the ARM Trust Zone security architecture, software virtualization and hardware virtualization by core for complete security isolation. Each core individually supports single cycle ARM NEON 128 bit vectors for software based media processing applications. The entire architecture supports Broadcom’s Nexus and Trellis software interfaces ensuring a seamless continuation of the home gateway and client experience.

That's enough for the technically curious.

The bottom line is that Broadcom has taken the lead in delivering on the next generation promise for UHD TV. It also means that in less than 18 months we should all be able to line up to step up to four times the HD we now have in hand. We're definitely on board with that!




Edited by Brooke Neuman





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