Digital TV & STB development Promwad

DTV & STB tech

Set-top box & Digital TV dev process highlights

The STB is a device capable to receive video content via DVB standard and display it on TV. The development of IP networks and broadband/ADSL made possible to deliver a high-quality video content through IPTV set-top boxes.

Here we describe the main aspects of hardware development in STB & Digital TV area. We'll focus on DTV standards, STB classification, and the overview of SoC manufacturers for STB.

STB classification

All set-top boxes can be divided into four major groups depending on source of digital TV signal:

  • STB for terrestrial digital video broadcast (DVB-T)
  • STB for satellite digital video broadcast (DVB-S)
  • STB for cable digital video broadcast (DVB-C)
  • IPTV set-top boxes receiving video streams via IP network (Ethernet or Wi-Fi)

Set-top boxes with MPEG-2 transport stream support are quite widespread in Europe and USA. Usually, STB consists of:

stb classification Promwad

Frontend with tuner and DVB demodulator. There is also Digital Satellite Equipment Control (DiSEqC) module in case of satellite antenna setup

Design of a custom-made enclosure

Demuxer filters incoming DVB stream and splits a transport stream into video and audio parts. Transport stream can contain some special streams like teletext or subtitles

Design of a custom-made enclosure

Conditional Access (CA) module or smartcard slot performs real-time decoding of encrypted transport stream

Design of a custom-made enclosure

Separated video and audio streams are directed to corresponding decoders

Digital TV standards


digital video broadcast by satellite


digital video broadcast by satellite, standard updated in 2004


digital video broadcast by satellite for portable and mobile devices


digital video broadcast by cable


digital video broadcast, terrestrial television


digital video broadcast, terrestrial television, standard updated in 2008


digital video broadcast, terrestrial television for mobile devices

Overview of processor manufacturers for STB

Being oriented to the mass-production consumer electronics, STB chipset manufacturers are forced to integrate more peripherals in a chip and to produce lower cost single chip solutions for BOM reduction and cutting price of a final STB device. 

Usually, the chip inside STB consists of 3 or more cores: a general purpose application processor and additional DSP-like cores dedicated to audio and video decoding. Let's give a short overview of major semiconductor companies which produce processors (system-on-chip) for set-top boxes:

ST is a top semiconductor player for STB chipsets. Currently the company's portfolio has the following processors: STi5100, STi5188, STi5105, STi5200, STi5205, STi5300, STi5516, STi5517, STi7141, STi7101, STi7105, STi7108, STi7167, STi7710, STi7200. There are many development kits from vendor with Linux, WinCE and custom RTOS support – OS21 and additional software components named OSPlus.
NXP Semiconductors
This Dutch chipmaker company become an active player in STB chipsets (especially for DVB-T) after acquisition of STB business from Connexant. However, in October of 2009, NXP refocused on automotive IC business and sold its set-top box and digital TV assets to USA based Trident Microsystems. Products are: Nexperia PNX8735 (low cost HD set-top-box decoder) & Nexperia PNX8732 (low cost SD set-top-box decoder).
Broadcom is a middle cost processors vendor for IPTV set-top boxes with a wide range of solutions: CM7038 Dual High Definition Digital Video System-on-Chip Solution for Cable, Satellite and DTV; BCM7043, BCM7118, BCM7309, BCM7400, BCM7403, BCM7404, BCM7405, BCM7410, BCM7420, BCM7452, etc.
Sigma Designs
Sigma Designs
Sigma Designs — middle cost processors for IPTV set-top boxes with the following solutions: EM8620L family, SMP8630 family, SMP8640 and SMP8650 families.
NationalChip – a strong player on the Chinese and Asian markets, which has a set-top box IC portfolio for standard definition and MPEG2 video decoding: GX1xxx – demodulator IC series (DVB-T, DVB-S, DVB-C, DTMB+DVB-C, ABS-C): GX3xxx, GX2xxx – video post-processing and MPEG2 decoder IC series; and GX6xxx – demodulator, video post processing, MPEG2 decoder System-on-Chip series.
ALi Corporation
This is another Asian manufacturer with the solutions: M3501 – DVB-S/DVB-S2 demodulator IC; M3602 – HD, MPEG-2, H.264 set-top box SoC; and M3381 – SD, MPEG-2, H.264 set-top box SoC.
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