Shipments of ultra-high-definition (UHD) television panels are poised to reach
2.3 million units this year as they make their first-ever appearance on the
market, fueling what panel makers hope will be a new source of profitability,
according to information and analytics provider IHS.
Featuring a resolution four times that of standard 1080p high-definition sets,
UHD displays are set to become the star offering from the makers of liquid-
crystal display (LCD) panels. The projected shipments this year are up from a
virtually nonexistent base in 2012, and growth in the years ahead will be at
galloping three-digit and high-double-digit rates. By 2017, UHD panel shipments
are forecast to reach 20.8 million units.
LCD panel makers are extremely bullish about UHD displays for several reasons.
Saddled by low average selling prices in the wake of a maturing global TV
market, LCD makers hope that UHD panels will become the premium product they
need to spur replacement demand for televisions among consumers. And as a high-
end product, UHD will be able to better compete with organic light-emitting
diode (OLED), also an advanced display technology with superior image quality
that was making inroads until the production ramp-up got delayed by
Panel makers point out other encouraging factors that they say will help UHD
succeed in the market?unlike 3-D, which held out enormous promise at the
beginning but was eventually overcome by both technological and marketing
hurdles. In contrast to 3-D where material was difficult to come by, UHD could
be featuring native content by next year, and UHD panels also will be able to
upscale broadcasts made in standard high-definition. Moreover, upscaling
technology is being built into new peripherals like DVD players, game consoles,
cameras and camcorders - a broader range of accessories supporting the new
technology than 3-D was ever able to achieve.
Still, there are issues that LCD suppliers will need to resolve where UHD
manufacturing is concerned. For instance, not enough production capacity exists
in the latest-generation LCD fabrication plants known as Gen 10, which is
already being used to produce super-large-sized panels like the 60- and the 70-
inch. Meanwhile, the Gen 8.5 production lines responsible for various TV panels,
such as the 32-, 46- and 55-inch,, deprive the lines of otherwise dedicated
capacity for UHD panels.
The price of UHD televisions will also have come down to a point within reach of
consumers for panel suppliers to make them. The 55-inch UHD set from Sony
currently carries a retail price of $5,000, while the 65-inch model is even more
expensive at $7,000. In comparison, a 55-inch LED-backlit LCD TV from Samsung
Electronics can be had for just $900. To build demand for their panels, LCD
suppliers are aggressively reducing the price of UHD displays, lowering them to
just 1.1 or 1.2 times the price of 1080p full high-definition panels.
The UHD panels being shipped this year will be in a wide range of sizes,
including very large measurements from 84- to 110-inches. Most panel suppliers,
including the Chinese, are either already mass-producing UHD panels or have
plans to introduce them in the second half of this year.