EL SEGUNDO, USA: The black-and-white picture, set-top antenna and rotating channel dial all may have disappeared from the television technology repertoire—but one relic remains: the can tuner used in every TV since Howdy Doody ruled the ratings.
However, all that is about to change as the television market rapidly transitions to single-chip silicon tuners , with more than 60 percent of sets expected to adopt the technology by 2014, according to the market research firm iSuppli Corp.
Shipments of silicon tuners for televisions are set to rise to 175.5 million units in 2014, up from 7.1 million in 2009. This will amount to a penetration rate of 60.7 percent of all television in 2014, up from 3.4 percent in 2009.
“The television market has let a lot of legacy technology fall by the wayside in recent years, but still is clinging to traditional can tuners,” said Randy Lawson, principal analyst and manager for iSuppli. “However, this is set to change dramatically during the next four years, as the television market greatly increases its use of the superior silicon tuner technology.”
Silicon tuners have been gaining rapid acceptance in recent years in products including set-top boxes because of their advantages compared to traditional can tuners.
Can tuners—whose name derives from their use of metal enclosures—are composed of multiple discrete components, requiring assembly and customization for each product in which they are used.
With their single-chip technology, silicon tuners have a smaller form factor, consume less power and reduce television system manufacturing costs compared to cans. They also provide a one-size-fits-all solution that requires no customization and yields consistent performance and quality.
The component costs largely have been wrung out of can tuners. To further reduce costs, can tuner manufacturers may be forced to move manufacturing to Vietnam and out of China, where labor costs are rising.
However, the can’s hegemony is being threatened by the arrival of an increasing number of cost-competitive silicon tuner solutions from a growing list of established semiconductor makers. Silicon tuner suppliers, such as NXP, Microtune, Silicon Labs, Maxim and ESS Technologies, now are offering reference designs compatible with worldwide television, cable and satellite broadcast audio and video standards.
This is allowing television OEMs to adopt more system hardware and software commonality between regional television-set designs, which will help to promote the use of silicon tuners.
Shrinking form factors for LED-based LCD-TVs are expected to prompt some OEMs to design the silicon tuner directly into the television audio/video motherboard. However, other ease-of-design and manufacturing considerations will enter into the equation of silicon tuner placement in the TV electronics chassis.
RF expertise is required to optimize the electrical layout and connections of the silicon tuner to avoid causing internal electrical noise that may effect RF reception. Such expertise is often lacking for television system designers, who in the past have relied on support from pre-packaged can tuners and their suppliers to pre-qualify the tuner performance and solve any issues that arise during qualification testing of a new TV design.
Furthermore, several leading TV can tuner manufacturers are also part of large vertically integrated TV OEM companies. There may remain internal business incentives to keep those tuner module supply organizations in operation.
Because of these factors, some usage of can tuners is likely to remain in the television market for the foreseeable future.
Fueled by exploding sales in the television segment, the overall silicon tuner market is poised for strong growth during the next four years. Overall unit shipments for silicon tuners in consumer electronics, PCs and in automotive applications are set to rise to in excess of 480 million units in 2014, more than double the 200 million in 2009.
The silicon tuner market has expanded rapidly since its beginnings near the turn of the millennium, and iSuppli believes that the increasing ubiquity of video in mobile devices—combined with the falling costs and rising availability of silicon tuners—bodes very well for this segment of the RF semiconductor market.
Source: iSuppli, USA.