HDTV and PC drive active optical cable use

Increasing demand for faster IO connections is expected to accelerate demand for active optical cables (AOC) over the next five years, according to newly released research from IGI.

It forecasts AOC revenue to grow from nearly $200 million in 2009 to beyond $2.4 billion by 2013. Cable unit sales are expected to increase from nearly 2 million units in 2009 to more than 75 million by 2013.

AOC suppliers will realise substantial benefits as they increase and improve the efficiency of their production capacity and overall output volume over the next two years. These improvements will ultimately allow them to pursue lower average selling price (ASP) business while maintaining profitability.

AOC revenue and units are currently dominated by high performance computing (HPC) applications, where there is ever-increasing demand for speed over greater distance by supercomputers. In some cases, AOC users are replacing all the copper InfiniBand cables with AOCs, even in the shorter 1 to 3 metre lengths. Although the HPC segment remains strong and growing, it will be surpassed by HDTV and PC applications.

By end of 2009, we expect HDTV AOCs to dominate, mostly due to the large base and popularity of the high definition multi-media interface as well as declining prices for larger-format HDTVs and HD projectors.

We also see PC cables growing share, helped by media centre usage and USB-based IO. While these types of connections are much slower in average speed than their current InfiniBand cousins, they are also reaching much higher volumes, albeit at a lower ASP due to the slower-speed data lanes inside these cables.

HPC AOC revenue share will continue its fall from 24% in 2009 to less than 5% by 2013, although their absolute values are growing over this period. Much of this shift in share will be caused by surges in the PC segment, which will grow from $55 million to over $1.3 billion, as well as by nearly ten times the revenue growth of the HDTV segment.

Similar shifts in unit share by application segment can also be expected, although not as pronounced as in revenue, due to the higher relative ASP still maintained by HPC active optical cables over this interval.