Active optical cables sales outside the data center to reach $1.2B by 2019
The market for active optical cables (AOCs) for non-data center applications will reach $1.2 billion by 2019, according to a new report from market research firm Communications Industry Researchers. Non-data center applications for AOCs include personal computing, digital signage, and consumer electronics, the company says.
AOCs have already found some use as a bandwidth-efficient means of transporting video streams for digital signage. This market will grow as it becomes more common to feed digital signage with multiple content streams and signage is networked over entire cities. Today, the connection between the display and the media server is usually DVI or HDMI. The connection from media player to content server is usually an Ethernet connection. Either connection could be implemented with AOCs, according to analysts. The firm estimates that AOCs sold into the digital signage space will reach just over $350 million by 2019.
Revenue from sales of AOCs in the personal computing sector will grow to $835 million by 2019, the analysts claim. These would support high-speed connections to peripherals or storage devices, but also LANs-on-motherboards (LOMs) and board-to-board connectivity. AOCs are necessary for such applications until higher speeds are reached, but at 25 Gbps AOCs have better costs than copper over 3 meters and the Thunderbolt interface common on Apple computers already operates at 20 Gbps.
In fact, Thunderbolt may be the best example of how AOCs?? fortunes could evolve in the personal computing environment. Intel continues to develop the optical Thunderbolt technology, and firms currently offering Thunderbolt AOCs include Corning, DeLock, and Sumitomo (see, for example, "Sumitomo Electric samples optical Thunderbolt cable"). As early as 2011, a Sony Vaio laptop used optical Thunderbolt to connect to a graphics card. The video below provides a look at Corning's approach.
For AOCs to really take off in the personal computing market, however, they will need active support by high-profile equipment manufacturers or network interface card (NIC) vendors, to make the advantages of AOCs become better known to PC users. For AOCs to be a success in personal computing AOCs must also be sold through mainstream PC channels, in the same way as other types of cabling.
However, is more pessimistic about the consumer electronics sector. It believes that the opportunity for AOCs in consumer electronics will be limited to extenders in home theaters and for personal video editing. For AOCs to generate more than niche revenues, the large consumer electronics retailers will have to be convinced AOCs are worth their while. This may be hard given the arrival of 10 Gbps USB 3.1 in 2013, the analyst firm says.