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Synaptics SoC Targets OTT STBs

December 5, 2017

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

After completing two strategic acquisitions this year, Synaptics has unveiled a new SoC for the rapidly evolving set-top-box (STB) market. With its VideoSmart BG5CT, the company is repositioning itself as a chip vendor for STBs that support open platforms, such as Android TV and the open-source Reference Design Kit (RDK). These platforms cater to viewers of streaming-video services as well as traditional cable customers.

Specifically, the BG5CT aims at service-operator STBs that integrate over-the-top (OTT) video with traditional pay-TV service. Because it supports transport-stream processing, the chip also targets hybrid boxes that combine OTT video with conventional broadcast TV. Lacking a cable modem, the BG5CT isn’t ideal for traditional cable-TV boxes that require DOCSIS compatibility. But a growing number of “cable cutters” are canceling their traditional cable service in favor of OTT alternatives such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. Almost 50% of these viewers employ smart TVs to access these services. The rest use STBs; the leading products are Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV. Cable and satellite operators are supporting these services in their new STBs as well.

The BG5CT is a sixth-generation design that supersedes the two-year-old BG4CT. All the chips in this series were actually developed by Marvell. In September, that company sold its Multimedia Solutions Business to Synaptics, which was previously known for its laptop touchpads and other user-interface products. At about the same time, Synaptics acquired Conexant, a Rockwell International spinoff that specializes in audio and video. In just a few months, Synaptics has become a major media-processor vendor.

The BG5CT offers multiple enhancements, including 4K Advanced High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology, a faster GPU core, a higher-throughput DRAM interface, stronger security for copy-protected content, and simultaneous video transcoding for mobile viewing. Sampling since 1Q17, the chip is ramping to volume production this quarter.

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