Fibre-optic Cabling Has A Bright Future: Report

According to a recent analyst report, copper is expected to dominate the cabling market over the next five years, but the real growth opportunities lie with fibre, which is expected to experience double-digit growth.

Copper, Fiber & Wireless: How Will We Hook Up? was released late last month by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Cahners In-Stat Group, and indicates that fibre will experience a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23 per cent through 2005, and will reach almost 69 million ports shipped in 2005 for the combined LAN and network interface card (NIC) markets.

While the cost of fibre-optic cabling is still expensive, its benefits will make it a wiser choice for enterprises that are looking to implement new cabling, according to Lauri Vickers, a senior analyst with In-Stat’s Voice and Data Communications Group.

This fact, combined with the superior security features of fibre, will fuel its drive into the enterprise space, she said.

But Vickers also stressed that this push will not happen overnight. Findings from the report indicate that enterprises will not start ripping out their copper infrastructures right away to replace them with fibre. The change will come as companies “max out the capabilities of existing Category 5 or 5e cabling,” and look to replace it.

People simply want to avoid having to pull out in-wall cabling, Vickers said.

The report indicates that fibre will account for approximately 13 per cent of all the ports in the LAN in 2005, up from 11 per cent this year.

Most of fibre-optic cabling’s growth “will be driven by the more economical multi-mode fibre that appeals more to large networks than to small ones,” according to the report.

Another important finding from In-Stat indicates that all forms of cabling to the desktop will decline as wireless technologies become more prevalent and improve. The adoption of wireless will also improve as enterprises look to eliminate desktop move, add and change (MAC) costs. In 2005, wireless will account for approximately four per cent of all LAN ports, up from one per cent this year.

“Wireless is a superior technology when you look at it from a market dynamic standpoint because it eliminates MAC costs, kind of like how modular furniture has taken over our office environment,” Vickers explained. “Because if they need to change things around to fit in more desks, give someone a bigger desk, whatever, it’s very, very easy compared to dealing with solid plaster walls.

“You’ll see that over and over in markets: anytime you can bring in a product that eliminates move, add and change costs, it’s generally a market winner,” she continued.

The drawback with wireless technology right now is it only offers an effective throughput rate of 11Mbps, and it’s a shared technology, Vickers noted.

“That means the more people that come up next to you and start using the same access point, the slower you all go. So that’s really the biggest problem with wireless – that it’s not fast enough, and that it is shared.”

Most desktops have been running on 10Mbps Ethernet but are just now turning on fast Ethernet, which means they are running at 100Mbps – almost ten times the speed of wireless.

“If they had wireless that ran at, I don’t know, 50Mbps to 100Mbps…(and) as long as the prices were comparable, I think you’d see people switching over to wireless en masse,” Vickers said.

The In-Stat report includes end-user survey results and offers five-year predictions in the areas of fibre, copper and wireless ports. The report can be purchased for US$2,995. For more information, visit the firm’s Web site at