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November 4, 1997updated 03 Sep 2016 6:39pm


By CBR Staff Writer

The long awaited specifications for set top box decoders were finally announced by News Corp’s British Sky Broadcasting subsidiary yesterday, with the rival British Digital Broadcasting consortium also releasing a specification, but restricting its publication to set top box manufacturers. The BSkyB spec includes a design in for chips from SGS Thompson Microelectronics, to be used in the initial boxes, and the boxes will use software jointly developed by SGS Thomson and the OpenTV joint venture between Sun Interactive and Thomson Multimedia. SGS Thomson is also a member of the Digital Television Group, which is responsible for launching Digital Terrestrial Television in the UK. BSkyB announced earlier this year that its boxes would be produced by four manufacturers, Pace Micro Technology Plc, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd, Sony Corp and Nokia Oy, who are likely to be the first customers for the chips. SGS Thompson said the BSkyB specification relates to the key set top box functions, including the 32-bit microcontroller, the MPEG-2 decoder, the PAL/NTSC encoder, the link/tune interface and the front panel microcontroller. The company also said it would be providing support for conditional access technology, the pay-per-view element. Simon Loe, technical press relations manager for SGS Thompson said it was so far the only company to be designed in to the specification, although he conceded it could face competition from rivals such as LSI Logic, Texas Instruments Inc and Motorola Corp eventually. Meanwhile, British Digital Broadcasting said it was not releasing full details of its specification to the public, but had invited invitations to tender designs from around twenty set top box manufacturers. Although the broadcasters released separate specifications, BDB is adamant that its boxes will be compatible with the separately released BSkyB reference design via an adapter and a smart card. This is the first reference design for the boxes and will cover around 75% of current users needs, providing access to all existing services, said a BDB spokesperson. However the consortium is also working on agreeing further specifications for providing more interactive services. The UK market is currently the most advanced for digital television technology, and is being viewed by manufacturers as a useful testing ground for future projects in the US and elsewhere.

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