The epidemic accelerated the business of big technology companies and telecommunicationbut increasing demand for services Internet also has a dark side: famine world of fiber optic cables. In recent months, the difficulty in accessing components of this infrastructure has pushed prices up and threatened to halt growth. digitization from various countries. How does this problem affect Spain?

Europe, along with China and India, are the regions most affected by the scarcity of this crucial material for industry. this price Fiber usage rose to 70% from a March 2021 low, according to a study by Cru Group that could undermine distribution plans and global connectivity.

On the one hand, experts attribute the fiber optic shortage to the strong increase in demand, which rose more than 8% year-on-year due to the ‘boom’ in connections pushed by the covid crisis. On the other hand, due to the lack of key components in the manufacture of such products cables such as helium or silicon tetrachloride. According to the same study, the price of both materials increased by 135% and 50%, respectively. This problem has been highlighted. inflation It accelerated after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “I’ve never seen anything like this inflationary crisis in my professional career,” Wendell Weeks said. Corningworld’s largest fiber optic manufacturer.

And Spain?

This issue can wreak havoc in countries where fiber optic coverage is still scarce, such as Greece, Belgium, Austria or Germany. Inside Spain The impact is more limited as its digitization is far ahead of its European neighbours. Thus, the second country in the continent with the highest fiber optic penetration, 68.4% of the population, is behind only Iceland. Spain is the third country with the highest penetration in rural areas and the second fastest growing market, according to various reports by the FTTH Council of Europe, the union that brings the industry together. Active line reached 13.2 million last MayAccording to data from the National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC).

Fiber optics is essential to ensure the digitization of societies and accelerate an increasingly network-dependent economy. The promise of 5G or the so-called 5G that will allow simultaneous ultra-fast connections for thousands of mobile devices industry 4.0 it is based on digital architecture. “There will be no problems in the short term, but in the medium term the increase in cost will affect new fiber deployments,” warns José A. Lázaro, professor at Escola Tècnica Superior d’Enginyeria de Telecommunications de Barcelona (ETSETB).

Durability of ‘telecos’

Currently, 77.6% of the fiber optic lines used in Spain are concentrated by three major operators: Movistar, Orange Y Vodafone. In recent years, the Government has given these companies millions of dollars in aid to speed up the distribution of cabling and make internet connectivity available at . broadband to every corner of its territory. Therefore, it chose to shut down the traditional copper network and replace it with a more efficient fiber optic network; this is a strategic deployment that puts Spain in a strong position.

Large’telecomCompanies in the country tend to enter into multi-year supply contracts with fiber optic manufacturers, which strengthens their position in the face of market ups and downs. “We buy long-term and long-volume, which perhaps makes it less sensitive to inflation,” said Alberto Moreno, director of regulation. Telephone in spain. “We are not immune, but we have some resistance.” From Orange, they point out, their fiber deployments were unaffected, “thanks to the foresight and foresight of suppliers,” although they’re starting to notice “a certain increase in cost.”

problems for manufacturers

However, those affected by rising energy, transportation and raw material costs, fiber optic manufacturers, on the first line of influence. “The general increase in prices coincided with the lack of capacity to respond to the demand of teleoperators,” says Ramón Alós, president of the OPTRAL manufacturing company. In recent months, the cost of fiber optics has dropped from four euros per kilometer to the current 6.70 euros.

The producers’ loss does not end here. New fiber orders are decided at the current price, but the situation becomes more complicated when customers who previously agreed on long-term supply contracts at a fixed price – many financed through public tenders – do not accept the cost increase. affecting the producers. As Alós warns, a prolonged rise in prices will cause more and more problems to pile up: “No one has a magic wand, but the outlook is bad.”