How many kilometers of optical fiber cables have been laid worldwide as of the year 2017?


I know the answer to this question is not easy and there is not straight, accurate one number answer. However, if anybody can give an approximate estimation, it would be great help. When we talk about fiber optic networks, it would be great if we can talk about an approximate length of fiber cables laid so far.

Global demand for optical fibers are increasing and I have read some articles saying that the demand will touch 500 million FKM by the year 2018. So, if any of you can provide information about the quantity of optical fibers consumed by cable makers to produce optical fiber cables from 1980 to 2017, we can estimate an approximate length of cables.

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Hi Samirbhai,

As you mentioned, I can give you only an estimation based on some assumptions. The demand for optical fibers per year was less than 100 million till the year 2007. In 2001, the global fiber consumption had reached more than 90 million FKM. That was the peak at that time and the subsequent years 2002 and 2003 witnessed a sharp drop in fiber demand and had reached around 50 to 60 million FKM. From 2008 onwards, the global deployment of optical fiber cables had been picked up steadily reaching to a level of 46o million FKM for this year (2017).

Supposing that the total quantity of optical fibers deployed worldwide (or consumed by cable makers around the world) was 600 million FKM from the year 1980 to 1999, and from the year 2000 to 2007 for 8 years, an average demand of around 80 million FKM per year, which sums up to nearly  (rounded up) 650 million FKM, we can say until 2007, the globally deployed optical fiber quantity was 1.25 billion FKM. Though the world was experiencing a kind of economical recession from 2008, fiber optic deployments continued and improved steadily worldwide. From 2008 and including 2017 (as of this date, it is estimted that global consumption of optical fibers in 2017 will touch 460 million FKM), global consumption of optical fibers will adds up to 2.85 billion FKM.

Thus, a total of around 4.1 billion fiber kilometers must have been deployed on the earth so far. This is in terms of Fiber kilometers. In terms of cable kilometers, we need again some assumption for the average fiber count per cable. Assuming that 36F is average fiber count per cable, around 114 million kilometers of fiber optic cables must have been deployed on the earth.

As I wrote above, my thoughts are just based on assumptions and estimations. You can of course differ and may have different opinion. I do not think there is a global agency to record each and every fiber optic cable deployment so that we can have an accurate answer to your question.


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