New Motorola Module May Lower Cost of Digital TVs

The high-resolution benefits of digital television could reach millions of consumers within a year or two, thanks to a new module from electronics giant Motorola. On October 4, the company announced its MCT5100 M-DTV module, an integrated device combining the functions of Motorola's 8-VSB demodulator, the MCT2100, with an MPEG decoder and controller. Installed in an appropriate monitor, the module will "implement a complete Advanced Television Standards Committee (ATSC) digital television," according to advance publicity.

The MCT5100 is said to be "the first product to integrate all of the functionality required to convert digital TV signals to the existing standard-definition (SDTV) format." Motorola expects TV makers to take their display-manufacturing skills into the DTV age by installing the module in the next generation of televisions. "There are more than 20 million analog TVs sold in the US each year, and the M-DTV module will allow manufacturers to leverage their experience in analog TV, as well as offer a digital TV at an attractive price,'' said Motorola's director of operations for digital TV, Bob Stokes.

The M-DTV module will likely be incorporated in televisions, VCRs, personal video recorders (PRVs), and set-top converter boxes, providing affordable alternatives to the current batch of ultra-expensive HDTV sets, which can cost as much as $10,000. At the moment, DTV converter boxes begin at about $700. If widely adopted, Motorola's M-DTV module will bring DTV to vast numbers of new consumers.

Picture-tube manufacturing is already at a high level of expertise. Some modifications to existing analog designs are necessary to make the leap to full DTV production, but Motorola has greatly simplified the task faced by manufacturers by moving the processing and control to the module. The MCT5100 M-DTV has a serial control port, accepts an analog IF input, offers Dolby Digital 5.1-channel audio output, and outputs video in a variety of standard formats. Manufacturers will be able to obtain samples of the M-DTV module beginning in November. Production quantities will be available in early 2000, Motorola predicts.