Issue: Dec 2009


Microtune Introduces Breakthrough RF MicroDigitizer™ IC for Automotive Software Defined Radio



Software Defined Radio Revolutionizes in-Vehicle Entertainment, Impacting in-Dash Radio Design and Manufacturing, Industry Business Models and Consumer Options

by Steve Barclay

Microtune Inc., has introduced the MT3511 RF MicroDigitizer™, a groundbreaking RF-to-digital converter, based on advanced radio frequency (RF) and digital silicon technologies, that brings software defined radio to the global automotive industry.

SOFTWARE DEFINED RADIO

For automotive manufacturers, software defined radio (SDR) represents a revolutionary approach to in-vehicle car entertainment, connectivity and multimedia. It enables them to flexibly deliver the most popular consumer features—AM/FM, digital radio, CD audio, MP3 playback, navigation, as well as connectivity for iPod®, SD card, USB and Bluetooth™—by using common hardware that is configurable, scalable and upgradable via software. SDR solutions dramatically change ‘infotainment’ business, design and manufacturing models. This technology offers car makers a global radio platform, increased design flexibility, substantial cost-efficiencies and a future-proof migration path to new standards and enhanced features.

MT3511: KEY ENABLING TECHNOLOGY

The MT3511 is a key front-end component in the SDR architecture. Based on Microtune’s next-generation, highly integrated RF MicroDigitizer architecture, the MT3511:

•Is a specialized, automotive-grade RF-to-digital converter optimized to work with generic, high-performance digital signal processors (DSPs) and multimedia processors to enable the SDR solution.

•Combines the functions of a state-of-the-art RF tuner and an advanced analog-to-digital converter in a single miniature chip—it receives and tunes a broadcast signal from a car antenna, and then converts the signal from analog to digital format for processing in software by a DSP or multimedia processor.

•Supports world-standard AM/FM, HD Radio™ technology, digital radio mondiale (DRM), and weather band. It replaces multiple hardware-specific components in today’s radio subsystem with a generic hardware platform that reduces design complexity, time-to-market, time-to-qualification and costs.

“For decades, leading automotive manufacturers and Tier-1 suppliers have used Microtune radio and TV tuners to migrate compelling consumer-class entertainment to the car,” said James A. Fontaine, President and CEO of Microtune. “We are now introducing a single-chip RF-to-digital converter that will help drive software defined radio throughout the auto industry as a practical mainstream technology. The MT3511 will be a key enabler for the future of in-vehicle audio and multimedia, while it fuels growth and opportunity for our Company across the worldwide automotive entertainment markets.”

“Software defined radio has been the holy grail of the automotive industry,” said Paul O’Donovan, analyst, Gartner Research. “While car makers have been eager to deploy the SDR concept, the baseline hardware technology required to navigate commercial cost sensitivities and the stringent automotive quality and manufacturing requirements has not been available. Modern multimedia or DSP processors are now increasing in computing power, allowing the complete processing of radio signals in software, while providing the necessary connectivity features. SDR applications also demand a new kind of front-end technology, such as the MT3511, that can receive and digitize radio broadcast signals across the fast-changing signal environment of the moving vehicle.”

MT3511: KEY FEATURES

The MT3511 is characterized by very high RF-to-bits performance, a high level of integration, low cost and very low profile. With its high sensitivity, high linearity, and configurable, fully autonomous automatic gain control circuit, the MT3511 is engineered to deliver stable, clear digital intermediate frequency (IF) signals. It offers the system designer the flexibility to configure solutions for even the most challenging reception environments, while enabling high-quality radio sound and multimedia within the SDR system.

As a key feature, the MT3511 is optimized to work in the digital domain of the SDR architecture and supports on-board designs with minimal external components. It is engineered to support block-oriented processing, and combined with a patented approach for generating a manageable data rate, it frees the microprocessor to focus on other tasks, including display, connectivity, traffic management and GPS. In effect, the MT3511 enables the microprocessor to manage its resources more effectively and efficiently, a key factor in overall SDR performance.

Other features include:

•Very low phase noise
•Fully-autonomous tuning-control engine
•Integrated high-performance 16-bit ADC with self-calibration and digital error correction
•Automatic data synchronization for FM phase-diversity applications
The MT3511 is the first member of the Automotive RF MicroDigitizer family, and future products will support new digital standards with even higher levels of integration. A complete technical description is provided in the MT3511 Product Brief.

As with Microtune’s other automotive products, the MT3511 is engineered to operate in the harsh vehicular environment, meeting the unique challenges of temperature and long product lifetimes as compared to consumer products. Developed to meet stringent automotive specifications, it supports temperatures from -40 to +85°C, and is designed to be qualified according to the requirements of the Automotive Electronics Council (AEC) Q100.

PRICING AND AVAILABILITY

The MT3511 is currently sampling to key customers and is priced at $3.50 in volumes of 100,000/year.

Mr. Fontaine added, “The MT3511 RF MicroDigitizer is the latest in our family of next-generation solutions. As with our MicroCeiver™ platform for digital TV, it is a class of product that evolves our market-proven RF capabilities and integrates them with digital signal functions. Our technology innovation enables our market-leading customers to leverage next-stage applications and new business opportunities to achieve their goals.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Additional information about the MT3511 and the complete suite of Microtune’s automotive products is available on the Microtune’s website. For a better understanding of software defined radio, please see Microtune’s White Paper, “SOFTWARE DEFINED RADIO – THE NEXT-GENERATION AUTOMOTIVE RADIO PLATFORM.” Additionally, to read about the issues and complexities of designing car radio for automotive systems, see Microtune’s White Paper, “CHALLENGES IN DESIGNING CAR RADIO SYSTEMS.”

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: MICROTUNE IN THE AUTOMOTIVE MARKET

Microtune has developed specialized RF products for automotive customers for more than a decade. The Company currently offers advanced RF technologies that deliver in-vehicle AM/FM, DAB, and HD Radio™ technology and car TV systems. Currently, Microtune’s OEM and aftermarket RF solutions are enabling in-car entertainment systems for end customers that include major worldwide automotive manufacturers.

ABOUT MICROTUNE

Microtune, Inc. is a receiver solutions company that designs and markets advanced radio frequency (RF) and demodulator electronics for worldwide customers. Its products, targeted to the cable, digital television and automotive entertainment markets, are engineered to deliver high-performance and reliable video, voice and data signals across a diverse range of end products, from HDTVs, set-top boxes and cable modems to car radios. Microtune is headquartered in Plano, Texas, with key design and sales centers located around the world. The website is www.microtune.com.


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