Market Insight

Optical network hardware market cools off in Q3 2017

November 15, 2017

Heidi Adams Heidi Adams Senior Research Director, Transport Networks
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Following is information and insight from IHS Markit about our Q4 2017 Optical Network Hardware Market Tracker, which includes data for the quarter ended September 30, 2017. 


  • In the third quarter of 2017 (Q3 2017), the global optical equipment market declined 15 percent quarter over quarter and 3 percent year over year as North America, Latin America and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) experienced significant reductions in spending; the Asia Pacific region was up 2 percent on a year-over-year basis
  • The metro wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) segment was down slightly in Q3 2017 from the prior quarter but increased 3 percent from a year ago; long-haul WDM declined 9 percent year over year
  • Huawei remained the worldwide optical equipment market leader in Q3 2017; Ciena was the number-two optical equipment vendor by revenue globally and maintained its number-one position in North America

Our analysis

The worldwide optical equipment market declined 15 percent sequentially and 3 percent year over year in Q3 2017 as soft growth in the Asia Pacific region was not sufficient to offset the declines in EMEA, North America and Latin America.

Recent performance in some corners of the optical components market has many in the industry looking to the market in China and questioning whether it can sustain the high investment levels seen over the past 18 months. While China was indeed down sharply sequentially as is typical for the quarter, it did manage to stay in growth territory on a year-over-year basis. Recent bid activity in China indicates that further significant investments in backbone and provincial networks are still ahead. 

In Q3 2017, the WDM equipment segment declined 15 percent from the prior quarter and was down 2 percent from a year ago. The metro WDM segment fell slightly quarter over quarter, but increased 3 percent year over year, supporting our view that this will be the main growth vector for the market moving forward. The long-haul segment sank 23 percent quarter over quarter and was down 9 percent year over year. Subsea revenue also declined both sequentially and on a year-over-year basis in Q3 2017.

Huawei remained the optical equipment market leader in Q3 2017 despite a significant seasonal drop in revenue both sequentially and year over year. Tepid spending in Western Europe was responsible for a large part of Huawei’s overall decline in the quarter. Ciena moved back up to the number-two position worldwide for Q3 2017. The company continues to be the dominant optical equipment vendor in North America, and it also made notable progress outside its home market in Q3 2017 with strong year-over-year gains in EMEA, Latin America and Asia Pacific.

Optical report synopsis

The IHS Markit optical network hardware report tracks the global market for metro and long-haul WDM and Synchronous Optical Networking (SONET)/Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) equipment, Ethernet optical ports, SONET/SDH ports and WDM ports. The report provides market size, market share, forecasts through 2021, analysis and trends.

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