Fiber-optic connectors outperform overall connector market for 1998

Sept. 1, 1998

Fiber-optic connectors outperform overall connector market for 1998

By ROBERT PEASE

Despite a decline in the worldwide connector, cable-assembly, and back-panel industry so far this year, the fiber optics portion of the market remained significantly higher than the industry average for the second quarter of 1998. The fiber-optic connector, coupler, adapter, and cable-assembly market, in particular, performed at a higher level than the overall connector market.

The second quarter 1998 results were recently published in a quarterly report by Santa Ana, CA-based Fleck Research, a company that analyzes technology and business trends in the connector, cable-assembly, and back-panel industry.

Although this year?s market has been relatively flat, Fleck is quick to point out the importance of remembering the industry?s previous 12 to 15 quarters of growth. This quarter?s modest growth should by no means be interpreted as doomsday, says Fleck?s analyst team. In fact, as fiber prices come down and the need for more bandwidth and speed goes up, the use of fiber-optic cable, connectors, and assemblies in network-cabling solutions may be necessary.

Private networks?both new and existing?must be well-planned and carefully structured. Meeting today?s needs and supporting the high-bandwidth applications of the future will require a cost-effective balance of both copper and fiber, say the Fleck researchers. Rapidly evolving applications and technologies will drastically increase the speed and volume of traffic on local-area and wide-area networks (lans/wans). Fiber is certain to play a critical role in ensuring that the user?s structured cabling solution will accommodate the higher transmission rates associated with evolving bandwidth applications, such as multimedia and full-motion digital videoconferencing.

As fiber prices are driven down, there is a significant effort to make fiber competitive with copper wiring in lan applications. lans deployed on different floors or buildings are typically connected with multimode fiber. But newer high-speed lan topologies such as full-motion video are starting to use singlemode fiber in some long-distance route applications where the superior transmission characteristics of singlemode fiber are required. Fiber-optic products are now being installed in office buildings, factories, hospitals, stores, and banks. Fiber-based product lines require cabling solutions for all areas of the lan, including campus, riser/backbone, and fiber-to-the-desk.

These and other technological advancements are enabling the fiber-optic product market to maintain a growth trend, despite the decline of the industry as a whole. Shipments within North America for fiber-optic connectors, couplers, adapters, and cable assemblies reached $898 million in 1997 (see table). Preconnectorized cables and cable assemblies (prewired shelves) added another $232 million. The total for all glass-fiber interconnects was $1.13 billion. Plastic-fiber connectors contributed another $32 million.

The total North American fiber-optic connector, coupler, adapter, and cable-assembly industry was up 12.1% in 1997, compared to 1996. In addition to the noncaptive shipments in North America, there also remains OcaptiveO production. A captive producer is defined as a manufacturer that produces fiber-optic interconnect products for sister divisions within the same company. Captive shipments are normally not available to merchant suppliers. Captive shipments in 1997 were $83 million.

For the remainder of 1998, Fleck predicts the overall market for connector, cable assemblies, and back panels will continue a downward trend to the tune of 1% in local currency and 5.6% in U.S. dollars. Fiber-optic shipments within the same market, however, will increase 9.3% in local currency and 4.8% in U.S. dollars. q

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