Qualcomm Enters Set-Top-Box Chip Market

Mobile semiconductor giant Qualcomm is muscling its way into the set-top box (STB) chip business, a move likely to shake up the market’s competitive landscape, according to insights from the Consumer Electronics Service at IHS.

Qualcomm is a serious contender to the current STB duopoly held by Broadcom, also from Southern California, and French-Italian maker STMicroelectronics. Both Broadcom and STM sit atop the $2 billion market for set-top box processors.

Qualcomm is entering the STB space via the Snapdragon 600 MPQ8064, a chip featuring the company’s quad-core version of an ARM-based architecture called Krait. The chip can process High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) of a 1080p high-definition signal, though not the next-generation ultra-high definition (UHD) signals. HEVC compresses media content more than current standards, allowing for more channels, faster downloads and higher image quality. .

In September Qualcomm announced it was partnering with Technicolor, a top-tier STB manufacturer based in France with a U.S. subsidiary in Boston, to power the Svelte box. The Snapdragon 600 will be inside the Svelte box, which will feature 4G Long Term Evolution, the first time the next-generation broadband connectivity standard will be available on a set-top box for the market.

Qualcomm sees the move from the mobile space, where the company holds a dominant position, to the home as a natural transition. It views the STB as not being too different from the handset because once the signal to be decoded is past the air interface in a handset or the front end in a set-top box, the tasks required of the processor are quite similar-namely, to decode video and audio, as well as to run apps. The latter, while common in handsets, should increasingly become a core function of STBs in the future.

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