Optical fiber gets special attention from researchers

Although most market research firms that survey the communications cabling industry cover both optical-fiber and copper-wire media, some focus more on fiber than copper, and a few cover the optical medium only.

Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.

Although most market research firms that survey the communications cabling industry cover both optical-fiber and copper-wire media, some focus more on fiber than copper, and a few cover the optical medium only.

ElectroniCast (San Mateo, CA), for instance, places a heavy emphasis on optical fiber, and offers an annual one-day conference summarizing its optical-fiber research for the year. Attendees receive presentations by a staff of fiber market analysts and walk away with a summary volume, entitled Fiber Optics for the Next Decade.

Among the studies it published in 1997, ElectroniCast included research on the consumption of fiber-optic installation apparatus in North America. The study forecasts a more than tripling in this market between 1995 and 2005, from $1.1 billion to $4.3 billion a decade later. This works out to average annual growth of more than 14%.

"This growth," says senior research analyst Saba Hailu, "will be driven by the dynamic expansion of fiber-optic deployment by cable-TV and private data-network administrators, plus the shift to telecom feeder and distribution cable and associated rapid expansion of outside-plant apparatus." In 1995, premises data networking held a 51% market share, followed by telecommunications with 36% and cable TV with 11%. Both data networking and cable TV are expected to increase their market shares at the expense of telecommunications over the coming decade.

Devoted exclusively to fiber optics, Kessler Marketing Intelligence Corp. (kmi--Newport, RI) hosts an annual fall conference reviewing the worldwide fiber-optics marketplace and has recently scheduled conferences abroad as well. This year, among the kmi research reports published were the following:

- The FiberGlobe Annual Report on Worldwide Fiberoptics Products, which estimates that the world fiber-optics marketplace will grow at a compound annual growth rate (cagr) of 13%, from $9.7 billion in 1996 the $19.8 billion in 2002. The report covers fiber-optic cable, connectors, and transceivers.

- An analysis of the global fiber and fiber-optic cable markets plotted against the capacities and expansion plans of fiber-making facilities suggests that the ongoing shortage of optical fiber will begin to ease in 1997, thanks to increases in manufacturing capacity. There may be surpluses in 1998 and 1999 as a result of these increases, but by 2001, cablers could face a fiber shortage once again unless more fiber-making capacity is built in the next few years.

- Entitled Multimode Component Markets for Data Communications in U.S. Premises Networks: 1994-2001, a kmi study published in 1997 projects the U.S. market for multimode fiber-optic cable, connectors, and transceivers to grow at a 20% cagr and to exceed $1.45 billion by 2001. Market research analyst Jerry R. Hobbs says, "The multimode-component market is driven by the installation of more computer networks in the U.S. and by the addition of more computers to present networks." The report estimates that 85% of the 121 million nonresidential computers will be networked by 2001.

In addition to market research firms, the recently formed Fiber Optic Association (foa--Boston), a nonprofit organization, has initiated a study of the competitiveness of fiber optics in premises cabling. The purpose of the study is to determine why fiber has succeeded in some markets and not in others. To participate in the study, or to find out more about it, contact the foa at (781) 469-2362, or visit its Web site at www.world.std.com/foa.

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