TV manufacturers will drop the can tuner for silicon

Television makers will abandon the can tuner, which has been standard since the beginning of the small screen, and switch to single chip silicon tuners. Over 60 percent of sets worldwide are expected to feature the single-chip silicon tuner by 2014.

Shipments for the silicon tuners will rise to 175.5 million in 2014, up from 7.1 million in 2009, according to analysts at iSuppli – making the leap to 60.7 percent of all TV sets from 3.4 percent in 2009. iSuppli believes that while legacy technology has been picked off one by one by manufacturers, the traditional can tuner, not canned tuna, has been reluctant to push up the daisies.

The market is now realising silicon tuners sport a series of advantages over their traditional older sibling. Can tuners are made up of multiple discrete components which means they must be assembled and customised for each product, whereas the silicon tuner has a smaller form factor, consumes less power and importantly are “one-size-fits-all” – they don’t require customisation.

Can tuner manufacturers, because of component costs, are even being pushed out of China where labour costs are rising in a bid to save money. However, can tuner manufacturers do maintain partnerships with vertically integrated TV OEMs, meaning business incentives may be kept in place to keep the can tuner running.

Silicon tuner vendors – like Silicon Labs and ESS – are incentivising the technology by offering reference designs that can be made compatible with worldwide standards in TV, cable, satellite, audio and video. OEMs are eyeing up silicon tuners as a result, as it allows them to enjoy increased software commanality between regional TV set designs.

LED based LCD TVs, says iSuppli, are seeing shrinking form factors. It’s got OEMs designing silicon tuners which can be implemented directly into the AV motherboard. 

There’s always interesting trends in display and panels but overall, TV sales are healthy. Because of strong sales in the segment, silicon tuners can expect a boom in growth over the next few years. They will be employed for other applications, too, including general consumer electronics, PCs and automotive – altogether unit shipments are expected to swell past 480 million in 2014. That’s double the 200 million in 2009.

Nothing is set in stone but the researchers at iSuppli are confident that with the falling costs and wider availability of silicon tuners, as well as the adoption of video for mobile devices, means the RF semiconductor segment should grow and grow.