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A plea to maintain opto prices

By Tom Hausken
How much will price erosion destroy opto revenues this year? That's one of the great unknowns in forecasting the market for 2009. Will suppliers behave themselves and hold prices above their costs? Or will they sell products at any price just to get cash flow for another quarter?

It's bad enough that the demand for components is sharply down as a result of the recession. Cutting prices only makes it worse. It's not like a company can brag about having market share if they lose money on every product going out the door. And in most of the opto market, high prices aren't holding back--the worldwide recession is to blame for that.

This is what has happened for years to several companies in telecom components. Some were selling below their cost. Consistently. And it spoiled the market for everybody.

I have to admit that I would be the first to argue that, in the end, the market forces ultimately prevail. That is, if there are enough competitors and the situation is desperate enough, suppliers will cut and run to get any business at all. Asking suppliers to remain calm and rational is not likely to make a difference.

And if fact, since last fall I've heard of discounts of as deep as 30% and 50% on standard prices. And then there's the used equipment market. What's a supplier to do when it is competing against its own products on the gray (used equipment) market?

Just the same, I hope that suppliers can look longer term and stick to a sustainable business strategy. It's going to be a long, cold recession and companies will be better off if they huddle together for warmth than if they wander off alone.

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