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IPTV set-top runs Linux

Oct 23, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 77 views

NeuLion is shipping a Linux-based IPTV set-top box (STB) as a complement to its IPTV encoding and streaming platform. Based on a Freescale Coldfire CPU and an Analog Devices Blackfin DSP (digital signal processor), the NeuLion IPTV STB provides H.264 decoding at 30fps, says NeuLion.

(Click for larger view of NeuLion IPTV STB)

NeuLion is an IPTV service provider for live and on-demand sports, as well as international and variety programming. It says its services include content ingestion, encoding in multiple formats, digital rights and content management, content delivery, customer billing, and subscription management services. And, it recently merged with a similar company called JumpTV. NeuLion's content partners are said to include KyLinTV, which offers “Chinese entertainment and programming.” The KyLin TV home page shows an image of NeuLion's STB, and links to another page stating that the box is worth about $200, but is being offered at $9 a month.

NeuLion's back-end server in typical configuration

NeuLion provides its content customers with a NeuLion iPTV Program Server and Streaming Server for encoding, transcoding, and streaming at 700Kbps over the Internet. Typically, they also supply the STBs for distribution to providers' customers. However, the system can also deliver video to PCs, cellphones, and other H.264-compatible mobile devices, says the company. The streaming server is said to support hundreds of channels and video streams, each with different content choices. It is unclear what operating system is used on the back-end servers, but the STB runs an undisclosed version of “open source Linux,” which NeuLion says “provides a cost effective, high performance, and low bit-rate solution.”

NeuLion IPTV STB architecture

NeuLion did not provide detailed specs for the STB, but the architecture diagram above shows that the box runs a Blackfin DSP and Coldfire CPU. Freescale's ColdFire MCF5249 is a low-powered 140MHz microcontroller that has long supported Linux. The ADSP-BF533 Blackfin uses the Micro Signal Architecture (MSA), which supports a RISC-like register and instruction model.

The NeuLion iPTV STB offers the following features, says NeuLion:

  • Plug and play with cable modem/ADSL/Ethernet connection
  • Support for 802.11g WiFi
  • 600 to 800Kbps streaming rate from network and to TV
  • Integrated CPU+DSP H.264 decoder design
  • Supports multiple-channel broadcasting, VOD (video on demand), and PVR video recording
  • 30 frames per second (fps) for NTSC; 25fps for PAL
  • MP3/stereo audio output
  • S-Video/YVR/RGB video output
  • Automatic upgrades over the network
  • VOD features such as pause, fast forward, and rewind
  • Embedded browser for central control and customized branding

On the encoding and streaming end, the NeuLion iPTV Platform offers the following touted features:

  • Real-time H.264/MPEG-4 AVC encoding and transcoding
  • Scalable, simultaneous streaming over RTP and RTSP protocol
  • No buffering, “fast cache,” and instant-on channel
  • Patented compression algorithms for compressing between frames


NeuLion did not offer pricing on the various components of its IPTV Platform. However, as noted above, KyLinTV rents out the Linux-based IPTV STB for $9 per month, and claims the box represents a “$198” value.

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