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Optical fiber market waits to rebound

28 Mar 2003

Corning reveals that the global market for optical fiber halved in 2002 at this week's OFC conference.

Revealing a 50% drop in the global market for optical fiber in 2002, Corning says that changes in three key factors -- the financial health of carriers, broadband business models and public policy initiatives -- are necessary for resumed growth in the telecoms sector.

The US optical fiber maker made the comments at an investor briefing at this year's annual Optical Fiber Communications Conference (OFC 2003) in Atlanta, Georgia, US.

According to Robert Brown, vice president of Corning Optical Fiber, the total worldwide market for optical fiber last year was about 55 million kilometers, about half of the 2001 figure. His estimates of the declines in demand by region make grim reading.

In North America, which accounts for about a quarter of worldwide market, demand dropped by approximately 65%. In Western Europe, which represents 10% of the market, demand slumped by 75%. It was a similar story for the Latin American market which declined 70%.

Perhaps, the most welcome news was from Asia (excluding Japan), which is responsible for about one-third of the global market. There demand fell by only 35%. In Japan, which also accounts for about one-third of the market, demand fell just 10%.

Despite all this short term gloom, Brown is optimistic in the long term. Brown estimates that although 600 million kilometers of optical fiber has been deployed to date, this represents just 20% of the potential market. He says that the substitution of fiber for copper cable is likely to continue and this is encouraging considering that around 230 million kilometers of copper-paired cable (USD 6 billion) is sold each year.

Oliver Graydon is editor of Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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