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Corning Is Late for Its Own Party

Photonics Spectra
May 2001
Daniel C. McCarthy

CORNING, N.Y. – Corning Inc. is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, but the party was over before it began, as dwindling equipment purchases at the carrier and systems levels this year rained on the component supplier's parade. The time to celebrate was last year, when revenue growth for fiber and photonic components soared 50 and 100 percent, respectively.

In an analyst and media briefing at the Optical Fiber Conference in Anaheim, Calif., in March, company officers projected that the fiber market would grow at a slower, but relatively respectable 20 percent in 2001. Likewise, they see demand for photonic components rising by 10 to 30 percent.

That's the sort of bad news many network vendors wish they could be reporting right now. Gerald Fine, executive vice president for Corning's photonic products division, attributed Corning's optimistic, if slightly adjusted, outlook to its strategy of supplying components for the optical layer. "Even if overall [capital exchange] is down, there is still room for optical equipment segments to take market share from other segments," Fine told the crowd.

Fine's long-term view offered additional encouragement for component vendors. He said the demand for amplifiers, filters, modulators and dispersion-compensation components would grow about 50 percent on average by 2004. Inflating that figure is forecasted growth in worldwide metropolitan markets reaching 100 percent and higher. The other segments include 50 percent growth in long-haul and 45 percent growth in submarine network systems.

The line on fiber

Demand for optical fiber reached levels unseen since fiber's earliest days, according to Alan Eudsen, general manager for Corning's fiber division. The 50 percent growth his division saw last year spelled good news for the company, which derives about 40 percent of its overall revenues from fiber.

So is it good or bad news that demand is expected to slow to 20 percent growth this year? Largely good. Despite the drop, Corning has sold out its capacity for this year, he said, which indicates that the supply is still tight enough to hold prices steady for now.

Fiber suppliers comprising the other two-thirds of the market can expect the fastest growth this year to be in Asian markets, which Eusden put at 35 percent. Japanese demand, figured separately, will expand by about 25 percent. The combined growth in North America and Western Europe will range between 20 and 25 percent this year.

In terms of application, fiber vendors got most of their mileage out of last year's long-haul segment, which represented a third of the application market and sprouted 60 percent revenue growth. This year, demand will be cut short to 10 percent growth, Eusden said.

In other markets:
  • Last year's 50 percent growth in metropolitan demand, representing just under a third of the market, will slow to about half this year.
  • Access, representing a quarter of the application market, will grow slightly slower than last year's 40 percent expansion.
  • The two smallest segments, premises and submarine – both occupying 5 percent of overall demand – will grow more than 10 and 45 percent, respectively.


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