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Taiwan eyes better displays, comms

Posted: 01 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LCD TV? digital home players? LCD? WiMAX? Taiwan electronic design 2007?

Cellphones with built-in digital cameras and MP3 players, DTVs with HDDs, DVD recorder/players, and Internet surfing capabilities have become increasingly available to consumers, along with the integration of 3G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, WiMAX, GPS or wired/wireless USB interface into laptops. In 2006, the electronics industry underwent 3C convergence, and this trend will continue in 2007, with LCD TVs, LCD panels, cellphones and WiMAX serving as the driving forces of Taiwan's electronic industry.

Boosted by sixth-generation plants' production, Taiwan's LCD panel revenue totaled more than $29 billion in 2005, according to a survey by the Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center (IEK). In 2006, the 10-inch TFT-LCD was the most popular among all panel displays, with total production valued at $27 billion. Overall, Taiwan's flat-panel display production is expected to amount to $38 billion.

Laptops, LCDs and LCD TVs are still the major driving forces of the flat-panel display industry. A DisplaySearch survey reported that about 76 million laptops were shipped in 2006. This year, shipments are predicted to exceed 100 million. Major growth forces include emerging products, such as the Vista OS and multimedia platform simulation, panels, and decline in system prices. LCD panel shipment totaled 130 million, and is projected to reach 190 million in 2007.

However, LCD TVs will support the next-generation panel industry, according to DisplaySearch analyst David Hsieh. In other words, the TFT-LCD industry cycle will gradually become part of the TV industry cycle.

"Last year, LCD TVs took 22 percent of the global TV market," Hsieh said. "From 2007 to 2010, this figure will gradually increase every year." Outperforming other flat-panel display technologies such as rear-projection TV and PDP TV, LCD TVs are expected to rule the global TV market in the coming years.

Taiwan's LCD-TV market has about 40,000-50,000 units, according to a survey by the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC). Its market share is expected to top 50 percent, while 32-inch sets will dominate, taking 60 percent of LCD TV's market share. MIC industry analyst Han-Yi Jiang noted the price reductions that began last year. The price for 37-inch LCD TVs went down to about $1,200, while that of 32-inch dropped to about $900. Such price cuts will boost demand and expand the LCD-TV market. Today, Taiwan is focusing on 32-inch and 37-inch LCD TVs, although the 40-inch and 42-inch LCD TV markets are expected to grow considerably this year.

Meanwhile, LCD TV's popularity and market share continue to grow. In addition to rising demand for larger display sizes, there have been efforts worldwide to expand production capacity and investment in the TFT-LCD industry. In 2004, global TFT-LCD equipment investment reached a high of $13 billion, according to DisplaySearch. In 2005, global investment dropped to $10.6 billion. As 7.5G and 8G plants launched expansion plans last year, total global investment climbed to $11.8 billion. However, increased output in 2006 will compel panel plants to reduce their investment in 2007 and 2008.

This year, LCD TVs will deliver improved brightness, color saturation, contrast and color depth. DisplaySearch's Hsieh predicts brightness and color saturation to increase to 450-500nits and > 90 percent, respectively, this year. Meanwhile, mainstream color depth is expected to reach 10-12bits for higher-quality display.

WiMAX will take off
An IEK survey showed that the Taiwan communication industry's production totaled about $21 billion in 2006an increase of 60 percent from 2005, with wireless communication as the key industry driver. The cellphone, GPS and WLAN segment registered a growth rate of more than 70 percent and total production amounting to $15 billion.

Wireless communication has emerged as the major force propelling the Taiwan comms industry. Field tests for WiMAX in Taiwan are expected to significantly affect the networking equipment industry.

WiMAX was one of last year's emerging technologies. The road to commercialization has been opened with the approval of standards, chipset shipments and test deployment worldwide in 2006. In Taiwan, all vendors started shipping chips, except for GemTek Technology and CyberTAN Technology. Taiwan's National Communication Commission is also scheduled to grant WiMAX-related service licenses to promote WiMAX-based mobile broadband services.

The Department of Industrial Technology of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) predicts that Taiwan's WiMAX equipment production will reach $3 billion in 2010. The MOEA-initiated "WiMAX Acceleration Plan" announced early last year has been urging Taiwan players to invest in terminal chips, base-station and system-integration development. The project includes three sub-plans: 802.16e terminal chips and base station, WiMAX office, and system integration. Its goal is to improve the whole supply chainfrom chipset development to equipment and system-integration capability.

Following the release of WiMAX chipsets from companies such as Beceem Communications, Fujitsu, Intel and Sequans, Taiwan's networking equipment vendors have started working with foundries (except Intel) on the joint development of WiMAX customer premises equipment (CPE) devices.

The most recent collaboration is that of Accton Technology and Beceem, which was the first company to provide commercial terminal chipsets compliant with the 802.16e-2005 mobile WiMAX standard. The two companies are aiming their 802.16e CPE products for the new mobile WiMAX market.

To develop Taiwan's WiMAX CPE industry, the Institute for Information Industry announced that Taiwan will deploy a WiMAX interoperability test plan with Nortel. According to the agreement, initial cooperation involves the introduction of WiMAX multiple-input multiple-output technology to vendors producing WiMAX CPE in Taiwan and the development of the WiMAX Interoperability Laboratory.

Enter the digital home
Last year, Taiwan players were keen on invading the digital home domain. Consequently, a high-definition A/V transmission standard was created, covering DTVs, DVD recorder/players, Blu-ray, HD DVD, A/V receivers, PCs, digital cameras and other devices. A gradual shift from digital visual interface (DVI) to high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) has been noted in the development of these products.

Steve Venuti, marketing VP of HDMI Licensing Corp., said that more than 462 manufacturers have been using HDMI technology as of September last year, with products available in the market exceeding 60 million. He predicted that this figure will top 500 million in 2008.

Of the manufacturers who recently obtained HDMI licenses, 24 percent are from Taiwan. Mainland China, Europe, Japan and Korea accounted for 22 percent, 12 percent, 11 percent and 9 percent of the total, respectively. "Taiwan is the fastest to support new standards," Venuti noted.

He also predicted that prices of HDMI products will drop in 2007. DVD players with high-end HDMI output ports will cost $70 while 19-inch LCD TVs will cost $700. Driven by declining prices, demand for HDMI-equipped electronic devices will continue to grow.

The price drop is also expected to push HDMI development into the PC arena. Feeling optimistic, Venuti predicted that aside from portable devices (i.e. portable recorder/player and digital cameras), laptops will begin using HDMI as it gets embedded into front or side panels. Thus, Taiwan players who are first to support new standards and invest in new technology will survive and reign supreme.

- Joy Teng
EE Times-Taiwan

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