The global fiber optic cable market has been significantly growing in recent years to support the rising demand by businesses and consumers for internet-based communications and services. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend over the past few years, as network operators have been adding more gear and capacity to support remote work, cloud-based service, streaming video, IoT, and 5G wireless technology use. In 2022, some estimate the market is expected to grow by 35.1%, from $66.54 billion in 2021 to $89.91 billion. By 2026, the market could reach $227.54 billion at a 26.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), according to ReportLinker.
Fiber optic cables and devices are used across multiple sectors, not just the well-known markets like telecom and CATV, but are also critical for networks in the military and aerospace, energy utilities, municipal, campus, and other sectors. Designed to generate and transmit data using light signals, fiber optic networks serve as the primary technology approach for high speed communications around the globe. In 2021, Asia and North America were the largest regions for fiber optic cable installations, but the technology is also seeing high growing demand across Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Africa as service providers continue to expand their networks.
Why Fiber Optics?
The primary drivers of utilizing fiber optic technology for global communications is that it delivers and supports more bandwidth capacity, faster speeds, and can be installed into a variety of environments more efficiently and cost-effectivly than older technology approaches like copper-based systems.
Unlike traditional copper cable that carries electrical pulses, fiber optic devices transmit light signals using lasers or LEDs through strands of glass optical fiber. Transmitting at near the speed of light along with the ability to utilize multiple wavelengths of light for carrying data in a single fiber result in fast data transfer and greater capacity. Creating cables that contain multiple strands of optical fiber results in exponential scalability that only continues to improve as advances are made in terms of the optical fiber, cables, and the devices installed on these networks.
Additionally, fiber optic cable is an improvement over previous technology and materials from an environmental standpoint. It's considered a “greener” internet solution with a minimal ecological impact. Further, optical fibers and cables are relatively environent-tolerant compared to other technologies, so they can be utilized across a wide array of environments ranging from underwater submarine deployments to hot and cold land regions of the world. Some specialty optical fibers like radiation-hardened fiber, have even been created to withstand extreme environments that occur in nuclear power plants and space.
Applications that Require Fiber Optic Connectivity
Businesses, organizations, and consumers have various needs that require the use fiber optic cables and networks. In addition to general internet and mobile communications access, emerging technologies and trends have arisen in recent years that demand faster speeds, reduced latency, and significantly more bandwidth capacity. As an example, streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu, 4K HDTV channels, eGaming tournaments, cloud computing, crypto trading platforms, social media apps like TikTok, and home-based IoT devices all require greater bandwidth and speed. To support all of these web-based technologies along with new products and services being offered every day, fiber optics provide the best and most efficient infrastructure approach.
Aside from consumer and business driven services like those above, the same is also true for military and aerospace applications, where fiber is essential for delivering information as quickly as possible for government communications, defense operations, and satellite transmission. Fiber optic networks are used to manage energy grids in the electric, oil, and gas sectors. There is also widespread use of optical fibers in the automotive and medical sectors, where fibers are used in vehicles lighting and safety mechanisms as well as surgical and dentistry devices respectively.
Advancements in Fiber Optic Communications
Continuous advancements and improvements are essential to the evolution and growth of the fiber optic technology arena, similar to most other industries. Given the growing demands for greater and faster communications, the technology must not only keep up with the pace, but constantly have an eye on the future.
While the number achievements across various application areas are too vast to cover in this article, it’s simply important to note that there is a heavy focus across this industry in terms of research and development.
It wasn’t long ago that the first 10G devices were developed and deployed in networks, followed by 40G and 100G deployments more recently. In 2022, businesses are now focused on 800G systems and beyond. Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) which enables multiple wavelengths of data carrying light signals to be transmitted simultaneously over a single fiber, continues to advance. Fiber optic connectors are getting smaller while incorporating more fibers to provide greater capacity and efficiently. Lastly, existing optical fibers continue to be enhanced to further reduce signal loss and improve performance specifications, while brand new fibers like multi-core fiber and hollow core fiber can lead to greater capacity and improved latency when transmitting data.
Fiber Optic Communications Market Outlook
Due to the consistent rise in internet users and services globally, the market and those involved at every level have all experienced significant growth over the last 20 years. While the industry has had its ups and downs and faces changing economic factors like any other, generally this market has grown at a steady pace and not experienced major downturns to the extent that other industries have dealt with. For example, during the recession from 2008-2011, while other industries saw severe negative impacts, growth slowed but companies still continued to invest and develop fiber-based systems as internet-based demands and services continued to rise.
In 2022 and looking through 2025-2030, most industry analysts and key players are projecting continued rapid demand and growth across the fiber optic communications sector. As noted by Mike Bell, leader of Corning’s optical communications business, in a LightReading article this past February, there is the belief that the industry is at the beginning of “a large, multi-year wave of double-digit growth in the fiber industry in general”. In summary, the overall outlook for the fiber optic communications industry is very positive and trending upwards.
As noted earlier in this article, most of the growth is being driven by business and consumer web-based technology demands in major countries, new network builds and expansions in emerging regions and rural markets, and a greater human reliance on internet-based services across the globe.
Learn More about Optical Fibers
For over 20 years, M2 Optics has served as an established leader in the fiber optic communications sector, delivering customized solutions for fiber network and latency simulation testing, optical time delay, networking, and training applications.
With a specialized focus on optical fiber, the M2 Optics team is focused on serving people - from sharing fiber expertise and technical specifications through offering products and services designed to add value. If you have a question about optical fibers or require an optical fiber solution for your next project, we are available to help. Connect with M2 Optics today.