Markets for Active Optical Cables: 2017-2026


*Prices listed are pre-publication rates through October 21st

CIR’s AOC reports have been the reliable source for business development and marketing executives in cabling, component and equipment firms for a decade.  In this latest report, we pay special attention to the important supply chain changes that are occurring as firms western AOC suppliers merge and Chinese suppliers come to the fore.  And, as always, we discuss how AOC firms should best respond to the latest developments in networking standards, MSAs and fiber varieties.

This report discusses six applications for AOCs. For each of these applications the report offers a ten-year forecast of AOC shipments as well as deep analysis of the factors driving and retarding AOC use in each segment.  The six applications, and the related issues that are discussed in this report are shown in the table below.

Study identifies profitable niches in a maturing market

Although CIR believes that there is still plenty of opportunity for firms to make money in the AOC space, we believe that there are signs of maturity in the AOC market which must be overcome in order to success:

  • For example, it is widely understood that that data centers and HPC installations will dominate the AOC business over the next decade. However, in these applications CIR also expects a trend towards commoditization of AOC products.  With this in mind, this report has a special focus in identifying “what’s next” in AOC products and markets – profitable niches in which AOC makers can build platforms for new business revenues.  In this regard, this report takes special interest in the market potential for AOCs in digital signage and smaller data centers, which have yet to make much use of AOCs.
  • In a similar vein the consensus says that QSFP and CXP will account for the lion’s share of the AOC market with QSFP slated to increase in market share over the period covered by this report.  Nonetheless, CIR also thinks that by focusing on higher value-added optics – 400 Gbps AOCs and ruggedized AOCs, for example – it will be possible to build substantial AOC-related businesses.

Report offers market shares, international data and opportunity analysis for smaller firms

This report is strongly focus focused on business strategy, analyzing the sectors in which AOCs are likely to find a market and examining the most important marketing issues faced in the AOC market, such as the importance of branding and product differentiation.  For example, will applications use existing Ethernet AOCs or will special consumer and “prosumer” AOCs emerge?

  • For now, it seems that no more than six US and Japanese firms dominate the AOC business.  The report provides profiles of all these leading firms including estimates of their current market shares.  In analyzing the activities of these majors, we take into consideration the impact on the AOC sector of important on recent M&A activity such as Amphenol’s acquisition of FCI and Broadcom’s acquisition of Avago.
  • We also examine the strategies of the many smaller players in this space indicating where we think these will be successful.  Our report also includes a discussion of how AOC supply chains and marketing strategies will evolve and how CIR expects AOCs to more fully enter retail distribution
  • We provide forecasts and analysis of AOC business in various national and regional markets, with the focus being on North America, Europe, Japan and China.  Indeed, the report devotes a special section to the Chinese AOC sector, which CIR believes may be the single biggest factor shaping the AOC market worldwide.  Thus in the report, we examine not only the Chinese consumption of AOCs for data centers and consumer electronics, but also the impact on the worldwide AOC industry of the growing number of serious Chinese AOC suppliers.  Will this trend make a big dent in the shares of today’s AOC market leaders?

Ten-Year Forecasts: What the Report Offers 

As with CIR’s previous reports on AOCs, this report provides highly detailed ten-year forecast of the AOC market in both volume and value terms.  Over the decade that CIR has been covering the AOC market we have developed a sophisticated forecasting model for AOCs and have been able to test our estimates against the views of AOC industry insiders.

Our forecasting methodology is based on estimating the size and growth of the underlying addressable markets for AOCs and then adopting plausible penetration rates for each segment of the AOC markets as well as estimate of acceptable price points for each sector.  Using this data, we construct a pivot table that serves as the basis for both our projections and our overall analysis of the AOC market.  The breakouts used in our ten-year forecasts are as follows:

  • Type of transceiver/MSA
  • Cable length
  • Fiber type
  • Electrical connectors supported
  • Data rates supported
  • End-user application
  • Country of use

The bottom line is that this report examines what it will take to be successful in the market for AOCs. CIR anticipates that this report will be a high value resource for marketing and business development managers in the components, cable, consumer electronics and personal electronics firms as well as at the AOC firms themselves.

Table of Contents


Executive Summary
E.1 The Core value proposition for AOCs still remains strong
E.1.1 The threat of AOC commoditization
E.1.1 When will the all-optical data center kill the AOC market?
E.1.2 The slow death of copper:  Active copper cables
E.2. The future of 400 Gbps AOCs
E.3 Opportunities beyond CXP and QSFP:  AOCs and the latest MSAs
E.4 Branding and product differentiation in the AOC business
E.5 Supply chain evolution
E.5.1 Entry of retail outlets into the supply chain
E.5.2 AOCs in the PC Supply Chain      
E.6 The influence of China is just beginning!
E.6.1 Chinese suppliers become more influential: A threat to current suppliers?
E.6.2 The growing size of the Chinese domestic market
E.7 Impact on AOCs of recent M&A activity
E.8 Five key companies to watch in the AOC sector
E.9 Profitable niches: A summary   
E.10 Summary of ten-year forecasts for AOCs

Chapter One: Introduction
1.1 Background to this report
1.1.1 Intended audience for this report
1.1.2 Differences from previous CIR reports and forecasts
1.2 Objective and scope of report
1.3 Methodology of this report
1.3.1 Forecasting methodology
1.3 Plan of report

Chapter Two: Key Product and Technical Developments Impacting the AOC Business
2.1 Evolution of active optical cabling products for the corporate networking environment
2.1.2 10G server environment
2.1.3 Current and future activity in the 40G AOC space
2.1.4 The future of 100G AOCs
2.1.5 400 Gbps AOC product evolution: Current suppliers and products
2.2 Current expectations for the InfiniBand roadmap
2.2.1 AOCs and the Future of IB
2.3 Summary of Ethernet technology roadmaps
2.3.1 Impact on AOC opportunities
2.4 Fibre Channel, SAS and AOCs
2.5 Evolution of interfaces for consumer electronics
2.5.1 Displays – HDMI and the others
2.5.2 USB 3.0 and beyond
2.5.3 Optical Thunderbolt
2.6 Hybrid AOCs
2.7 Summary of key points from this chapter
2.8 Summary of Key Points Made in this Chapter

Chapter Three: The Six Key Markets for AOCs
3.1 Overview of AOC markets
3.1.1 Active optical cabling in the campus and telecom Environment
3.2 InfiniBand markets – data centers and HPC
3.2.1 What kind of AOCs do IB data centers currently require?
3.2.2 Impact of IB standards development on AOC demand
3.2.3 Reach, fiber types and MSAs
3.2.4 Ten-year forecasts of InfiniBand AOCs
3.3 Ethernet AOCs – Still the next big thing?
3.3.1 Addressable markets for Ethernet AOCs – now and in the future
3.3.2 Impact of emerging Ethernet standards on AOC demand
3.3.3 Lengths, fiber types and MSAs
3.3.4 Ten-year forecasts of Ethernet AOCs
3.4 Ten-year forecasts of AOCs in storage: Fibre Channel and SAS implementations
3.5 Digital signage – addressable markets for AOCs
3.5.1 What kinds of AOCs does the digital signage sector utilize currently?
3.5.2 Emerging digital signage technologies and how these will change the need for AOCs
3.5.3 A Note on LED Matrix Displays     
3.5.4 Impact of digital signage demographics and geography on the need for AOCs
3.5.5 Lengths, fiber types and MSAs
3.5.4 Ten-year forecasts of AOCs in the digital signage business
3.6 Televisions, computer displays and AOCs
3.6.1 The video extender market – today and in the future
3.6.2 Impact of increasing definition and 3D on the need for AOCs
3.6.3 The PC Community’s Many Interconnect Options:  Why AOCs?
3.6.5 What types of AOCs lie in the future of TVs and personal computers?
3.6.6 Lengths, fiber types and MSAs
3.6.7 Ten-year forecasts of AOCs in the TV and PC display business
3.7 USBs and AOCs
3.7.1 Current and future evolution of USB:  Optical USB
3.7.2 Is there a fit between USB and the AOC?
3.7.3 Lengths, fiber types and MSAs
3.7.4 Ten-year forecasts of AOCs for the USB environment
3.7.5 Summary of ten-year forecasts for AOCs by market
3.8 Key points from this chapter

Chapter Four: International Markets for AOCs
4.1 North America
4.1.1 Structure and growth of the AOC market in North America
4.2 Europe
4.2.1 Structure and growth of the AOC market in Europe
4.3 Japan
4.3.1 Structure and growth of the AOC market in Japan
4.4 China
4.4.1 Structure and growth of the AOC market in China
4.5 Important AOC markets in the rest of the world
4.6 Ten-year forecasts of AOCs by country/region of use
4.7 Key Points from this Chapter

Chapter Five: Twenty Key AOC Suppliers:  Strategic Profiles
5.1 3c-Link
5.2 10Gtek
5.3 Amphenol and FCI
5.4 Broadcom/Avago
5.5 Centera Photonics
5.6 ConnPro
5.7 Eoptolink
5.8 Fiberon Technologies
5.9 Finisar
5.10 Fujikura
5.11 Gigalight Technology (China)
5.12 Hitachi Cable
5.13 InnoLight
5.14 Mellanox
5.15 Molex
5.16 Samtec
5.17 Siemon
5.18 Sumitomo
5.19 TE Connectivity
5.20 Zephyr Photonics
5.21 Specialist manufacturers of consumer AOCs

Appendix A: Ten-Year Forecasts of AOC Markets
A.1 Forecasting methodology
A.1.1 Sources of data
A.1.2 Forecasts from experience
A.1.3 Network topology considerations 
A.1.4 AOC pricing assumptions and breakout by interface/MSA
A.2 Alternative scenarios
A.3 Forecast by application, with break out by protocols and electrical connectors
A.4 Forecast by protocol with breakout by MSA and application
A.5 Forecast by MSA with breakout by fiber type, cable length and application
A.6 Forecast by application with breakout by data rates supported
A.7 Forecast of addressable markets for AOCs by type of network and data center:  Corporate, campus and military

Acronyms and Abbreviations Used In this Report
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