Editor's Log: Market Trends For 2010

January 2010 Vol. 65 No. 1

Over the past few months, I have been asked the same question countless times. With hope in their eyes, industry personnel all are asking for my take on 2010 market prospects. While it is impossible to predict in these uncertain times, here’s an early evaluation.

Despite what many may think, the energy pipeline market had one of its best years on record. While pipeline construction will continue a slowing trend in 2010, we see don’t see it coming to a virtual halt like in years past. Already, several major projects have been green-lighted for 2010. All projections emphasize a solid long-term future for pipeline construction.

Natural gas distribution is in a bit of a holding pattern. The economic downturn hit gas distribution hard as consumption slowed. The gas distribution market needs a healthy housing market, but more importantly, it needs active factories consuming fuel which in turn increases demand on power generation plants. The market will be okay in 2010 but 2011 and beyond have strong potential.

With all the talk of alternative fuels, it seems absurd that we’re still waiting for Congress to focus on what’s at the forefront – natural gas. We don’t want a V8 juice moment, several years in the future, when members of Congress are still trying to figure out a long-term energy strategy, finally slapping themselves on their collective foreheads and saying: “Wow, we should have used natural gas.”

The good news about telecom is that, even during the recession, demand for entertainment and broadband have barely slowed. Further, almost every month a new use or technology variation continues to make bundled broadband services even more relevant in our daily lives. In 2010, stimulus money for rural areas will help some contractors and telecom companies have solid years. Others, who depend upon the giants for much of business, should see a decent but unexciting year.

As the significance of fiber becomes more important to the average person on a daily basis, cities (especially small to mid-sized) are deciding fiber is a key component in keeping communities competitive and relevant, not just locally, but on an international stage. It’s also a quality of life issue for many towns: we may be small in residents but we can offer you to provide you the world via high speed broadband. More and more cities have decided they don’t want to wait for the big boys to finally bring fiber into their towns. Or, in some instances, cities want better, more reliable service that is reflective of community needs, thereby opting to build and operate their own systems.