Samsung Plans 802.11n Set-Top Box

By Eric Griffith

March 19, 2007

With chips from STMicroelectronics and Metalink, the wireless entertainment centers go into production later this year.

Metalink, maker of Wi-Fi chips, has partnered with what it calls the top company in the manufacture of set-top boxes (STBs) -- Samsung -- as well as the top maker of video decoder chips, STMicroelectronics. The three are showing off an STB combining their wares at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany.

"We have put together a reference design with [STMicroelectronics] to make our WLANPlus 802.11n chips distribute high-definition video throughout a home with a set-top box," says Ron Cates, vice president of North American sales and marketing for Metalink.

Cates says this is certainly not the first STB with 802.11n (see below), but he believes the clout of the players involved will make for a major release. The STB from the three will go into mass production in the third quarter of 2007. Like most STBs, it will likely be distributed to end users by cable or satellite television service providers. It's too early to say yet who that might be. The box itself is model SMT-H6155; STMicroelectronics' STi7109 chipset will handle HD video decoding.

"What we've done is look at the 11n standard and incorporate within our chip all the so-called 'optional' features that enhance data rate and reach capabilities," says Cates of the WLANPlus chip. Metalink is also working with the Wi-Fi Alliance in current plugfests to ensure interoperability. It plans to get Wi-Fi Certification on the WLANPlus later this year when the Alliance starts testing 11n chips.

ABI Research backs up what Metalink says about its partners, noting that STMicro is the market leader for decoders, and that Samsung STBs lead the Asia Pacific region, though they are #2 for worldwide use. ABI analyst Mike Arden is quoted as saying, "Together, these companies will be in a strong position to capture market share in the IPTV STB market, which will grow from 4.7 million units shipped in 2006 to 41.2 million units shipped in 2011."

Metalink, which is based in Yakum, Israel with its North American HQ in Norcross, Georgia, has previously announced STBs with providers like LG in Korea and Haier in China. Cates says the company demoed an STB with NXP Semiconductor, a Philips company, at the CES show in January 2007.

The Samsung and other boxes will support direct input from a cable or satellite source, or could access video data coming in on a home gateway. The box will likely have a hard drive inside to provide DVR functions. TV displays around a home will get their own Wi-Fi dongles for receiving the streaming HD video.

"This is great news for Wi-Fi," says Cates. "It is regarded as a technology whose primary, maybe exclusive, use is for computer networks. It's nice to see the technology expand beyond those capabilities and to other use models and applications. Video distribution is just one of them."

Originally published on .

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