Barbara E. Thompson
According to a study by the Venture Development Corp. (Natick, MA), the market for uninterruptible power supplies in the United States reached $1.048 billion in 1994. The study states that online UPSs accounted for the largest share of the market but during the next five years, they will lose market share to line-interactive/hybrid devices.
In premises and campuswide communications systems, UPSs are usually in the 3- to 5-kVA range; the two main types are online (no-break) and line-interactive (standby). The main difference between these UPS types is that online systems constantly supply power from the inverter AC power line, while line-interactive power systems monitor the AC power line and, if a problem occurs, switch in the inverter. For critical equipment, such as in the wiring closet, you might need an online UPS, but for equipment that can survive a brief shutdown, you may only need a line-interactive system (see July 1995 Product Update, page 12). Online systems, however, cost more than line-interactive UPSs.
"The competition in the 3- to 5-kVA product segment will be intense," predicts David Wyman, Venture Development`s director of power protection, "as online suppliers try to stop the advance of line-interactive suppliers. Their strategy will be to narrow the price gap between online and interactive devices and convince end users that online reliability is worth the extra cost."
One factor boosting demand for UPS products is the continued decline in prices. "End users have an aversion to spending large sums of money for devices that are seemingly used on an infrequent basis," says Wyman. "Power protection suppliers have responded by aggressively pricing their products." In fact, many suppliers believe that users will spend no more than 10% of the computer system cost for a UPS.