Conduit Pipe

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Pipe

This study analyzes the US conduit pipe industry. Historical data (2009, 2014, and 2019) and forecasts for the years 2024 and 2029 are provided for competitive pipe materials:

  • steel
  • plastic
  • aluminum

Data are also provided for types of plastic pipe:

  • PVC
  • HDPE
  • fiberglass
  • other resins, including polypropylene, polyamide, and LDPE

All demand data reflect apparent consumption (production plus imports minus exports) and are given in dollars, pounds, and linear feet.

Although distinctions are sometimes made between pipes and tubes, for the purposes of this study the terms “pipe”, “tube”, and “tubular products” are used interchangeably. Fittings are excluded from the scope of the study.

Pipe

Telecommunications Construction Overview

Telecommunications infrastructure includes the fiber optic cable, copper wire, and electronic components and devices used to connect broadcast and cable television, the internet, telephone systems, and related data transmission and communications systems.

In the telecommunications industry, pipe is used to protect coaxial or fiber optic cables from damage. The pipes, often PVC or HDPE, are either embedded underground, or encased in a concrete structure before burial. Demand for this protective piping increases when new or more extensive telecommunications networks are developed.

Telecommunication construction spending is anticipated to increase 2.1% per year in real, inflation-adjusted terms through 2024. Unlike other forms of infrastructure, telecommunications infrastructure is generally funded by corporate entities, rather than the federal government. Exceptions include programs established by the FCC under the Universal Service Fund, espousing the principle that all US citizens should have access to communications services at affordable rates.

Since the early 2000s, telecommunication providers have improved existing networks and installed fiber networks to handle the increasing use of broadband internet service. Although telecommunication companies continue to upgrade and extend their networks, it is not enough to meet future national broadband and wireless demand.

Despite the need for greater penetration, an even larger expansion of telecommunications infrastructure is restrained by:

  • the prohibitive cost of deploying this infrastructure
  • the lack of market incentives to push for greater deployment
  • investments by telecommunications companies in other areas, such as advertising and advanced business services

In the near term, the greatest infrastructural boost to conduit demand will be the buildup to deploy 5G internet infrastructure. Significant mileage of conduit has been and will continue to be replaced over the next several years to install the improved fiber optic cable required to process data at 5G speeds.

Pipe Pricing Trends

Pipe prices per foot are affected primarily by raw material costs, but are also a function of pipe diameter and thickness. As a result, the price per foot can be markedly different from the price per pound for a given pipe material depending on the diameter of pipe used:

  • The four pipe materials with the lowest per pound cost – concrete, clay, ductile iron, and steel – have the highest per foot costs, simply because they tend to be produced in larger diameters.
  • Conversely, copper and other nonferrous pipe is mostly used in small diameters, so it has higher per pound costs but lower per foot costs.

Through 2024, average pipe prices per pound are expected to rise, with a number of materials seeing an acceleration over the 2014-2019 period. Gains will be driven by a rebound in resin and steel prices and a shift in demand to larger diameter applications.

However, metal pipe price growth will be checked by the efforts of domestic manufacturers to absorb price increases to maintain market share in the face of strong competition from less costly plastic pipe. In addition, virgin copper and ductile iron price hikes will be tempered over the next several years by competition from scrap.

Conduit’s relation to average pipe prices depends on the measure and material:

  • In terms of dollars per pound, conduit prices are similar to those of prices overall, since the raw materials used to make pipe are measured by weight, keeping input costs of manufacture steady across pipe products.
  • In terms of dollars per foot, the price of conduit differs from the average, though those differences depend on material because prices depend on average pipe diameter:
    • Steel conduit is much less expensive than steel pipe overall because most steel pipe is used in large diameter applications (e.g., oil and gas).
    • Aluminum conduit is more expensive, because it is thicker than aluminum pipe used in a lot of other applications (appliances, etc.).
    • Like steel, plastic conduit is also less expensive than average because many other pipe products are used in applications requiring larger diameters (such as water, sewer, and drainage).

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