Global demand for power cables in 2017 saw improved volume growth on the previous year, mainly driven by a recovery in Brazil after two years of downturn, and by China where growth continued to beat the world average. Demand for telecom cables continued to climb in 2017, boosted by double-digit growth in optical cable volumes, as partially offset by shrinking demand for copper cables, gradually being replaced. Geographically, Brazil shrugged off its previous slowdown, triggered by the challenging economic conditions faced in recent years, to post a sharp uptick in demand for both energy and telecom cables.
Emerging Asian economies (China, India, Southeast Asia) were confirmed as the main engine of 2017 growth in global demand for power cables, while the main area of weakness was the Middle East region, where the oil crisis and geopolitical uncertainty adversely affected regional economic performance. In the United States and Europe, demand for power cables continued the upward trajectory initiated in 2016, supported by a resurgence in industrial output and consumer confidence.
As for the optical cable market, China accounted for more than 50% of global volume growth, followed by North America and Europe, which both displayed higher growth than in 2016, while the Australian market witnessed astabilisation. The various segments of the market had a mixed performance in 2017, featuring strong expansion by optical fibre cables, moderate growth in demand by cables for industrial applications and infrastructure, general stability in the European high voltage underground market and softer demand for cables by utilities, especially in Central Europe.
The optical fibre cables market benefited from growing demand for data transmission capacity, making it essential to upgrade existing network infrastructure, particularly in Italy and France, where the existing network is still predominantly in copper cable, while North America started to see the first initiatives to develop the 5G network. The market for optical fibre cables also benefited from growing investments by the principal Chinese carriers, who represented the biggest source of growth in global optical cable demand.