The T-con, or timing controller, IC is not a high value component in TFT LCD panels, but it plays a critical role in controlling the driving sequence of the display. One can think of the T-con as the conductor, while the driver IC works as the orchestra. Panel makers either design their own T-con or purchase from external suppliers, especially design houses. Either way, T-con and driver ICs are semiconductors, the production of which is limited by fab capacity. Recently, there have been T-con shortages, as T-con and panel driver IC suppliers have been unable to access enough capacity.
The semiconductor wafer fab companies, such as TSMC, UMC, Samsung, and Global Foundries, have prioritized other devices over T-con and driver ICs. As demand for semiconductors used in mobile devices increases, they tend to crowd out T-con and driver IC production. Wafer fab priorities are based on profitability, and several of these devices have higher profitability than T-con and driver ICs, including:
- Fingerprint sensor
- Touch Controller
- 4K high resolution panel T-con and driver IC
- HD & FHD T-con and driver IC (Mainly eDP interface)
In response to the shortage, T-con and driver IC design houses are not raising prices, but rather are limiting supply, increasing the shortage panel makers face. The T-con and driver IC shortage is forcing panel makers to prioritize as well. Since notebook PC panels are not currently profitable, panel makers may prioritize more profitable panels, such as for some TV models, monitors, and smart phones.
For more detailed analysis, please refer to the Monthly Large-Area LCD and PDP Pricing Report.