The worldwide market for industrial infrastructure wireline networking products exceeded $1.8 billion in 2007, and it is forecast to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.6 percent through 2012, reaching over $5.6 billion, according to Supply Side Analysis Reports. The report is part of the annual Industrial Networking Global Market Intelligence Service from VDC Research, Natick, Mass. Wireline networking products covered in the reports include:
  • Industrial-grade interconnect products: connectors, cables, and cord sets, and distribution boxes.
  • Networking components: bridges, console servers, device servers, fiber optic transceivers, gateways (protocol converters), hubs, modems, multiplexers, routers and switches.
  • Network management software: though sold separately, most of this software is bundled with hardware shipments.
The bulk of this market is in products with Ethernet connectivity. Shipment of these exceeded $1.2 billion in 2007, and VDC forecasts shipments will increase at a 28.5 percent CAGR to over $4.5 billion in 2012. The Ethernet share, which was approximately 69 percent in 2007, is expected to exceed 80 percent in 2012. Familiarity with Ethernet by both process control engineers and IT managers, along with overall trust in Ethernet, has encouraged increasing numbers of suppliers to develop products with Ethernet connectivity. In addition, increasing competition has led to decreasing prices of Ethernet products, thus encouraging users to consider Ethernet as their wireline networking infrastructure solution for industrial facilities. Ethernet-based networks offer several advantages over traditional industrial open standards and proprietary buses/networks, including:
  • Commercial-Grade Products. Hardened and ruggedized infrastructure products are not needed for all environments in industrial facilities. The availability of Ethernet commercial-grade products allows users installation flexibility at much more attractive prices.
  • Company-Wide Uniformity. Ethernet commonly is used in the office and also the plant floor, saving on infrastructure, training, support and other costs associated with supporting multiple network protocols.
  • Ease of Integration with Internet/Intranets. Ethernet's TCP/IP and other protocols extend control and monitoring capabilities to remote locations without the use of gateways.
  • High Speed and Wide Bandwidth. Ethernet is available in 10 and 100 Mbps as well as 1 Gbps data rates. Ethernet networks can be implemented at the appropriate bandwidth to enable quick response times and/or transfer of large files.
  • Lower Cost Connectivity. As shipments of networking products with Ethernet connectivity increase, the cost of the connecting devices and cabling for these is decreasing. Even when using industrial-grade connectors and cables, the cost for these using Ethernet is less than that of other open standard and proprietary buses/networks.
The industrial networking infrastructure market for Ethernet products is expected to sustain a substantial growth rate over the next four years. However, there is growing competition from wireless networks, which will become more substantial over a longer time period. Ironically, the growing acceptance of Ethernet for infrastructure use is helping promote wireless acceptance, as wireless Ethernet networks account for the majority of wireless networking products for industrial infrastructure use.

However, at least at present, many users who seek plant-floor automation often find wireline networking infrastructure products to be more reliable than wireless. Interference-free performance with high reliability and security is sought, and end users more commonly feel wireline products best guarantee this.