Corning and AT&T are expanding collaboration to extend their spending on fiber infrastructure, expand U.S. broadband networks and accelerate 5G deployment, according to Corning. The company said that because of AT&T’s commitment to its network buildout, Corning would spend $150 million on optical cable manufacturing in North Carolina, initially adding 200 jobs.
The company said this step is an example of how Corning promotes transformation through leadership in glass and ceramic science, optical physics and proprietary manufacturing methods. It said the company’s value-creation model enables the invention of breakthrough products, while making us of an existing footprint that can be scaled up. When demand exceeds capacity, Corning said, the company captures growth opportunities through investments in innovation and technology and keeps risk to a minimum by obtaining customer commitments.
AT&T previously announced plans to expand its fiber footprint, and the decision to expand its work with Corning spotlights AT&T’s commitment to meet that objective while supporting American manufacturing jobs, Corning said.
“We see expansion of our fiber infrastructure as central to the growth of our broadband reach, for consumers as well as business customers,” said Mo Katibeh, senior vice president of AT&T Network Infrastructure & Build. “By extending our collaboration with Corning, we’ll create American jobs through manufacturing investments, and also through the economic benefits that broadband brings to our communities.”
On Corning’s part, Michael A. Bell, the senior vice president and general manager of Corning Optical Communications, said that the need for connectivity has pushed demand on networks to record levels, and that Corning is investing to support network buildouts.
“This capacity expansion in particular supports the growth plans of AT&T, who we’ve valued for more than three decades,” Bell said. “We’re turning once again to the highly skilled local workforce in North Carolina to help us meet the demand. We deeply appreciate the support of local and state officials, particularly Gov. Roy Cooper, Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders and state lawmakers.”
The governor said, “Corning understands North Carolina’s strengths as a business location, thanks to their firsthand experience with our skilled workforce, customized training programs and great quality of life.”
Corning said that government spending on broadband facilities is expected to further fuel the demand for network infrastructure.
According to Bernhard Deutsch, optical fiber, cable and connectivity manufacturer Corning is achieving fiber innovation on a scale more commonly seen in five- to seven-year increments. Deutsch is Corning’s vice president and general manager of optical fiber and cable. He spoke with AGL eDigest about the advances represented in Corning’s MiniXtend and RocketRibbon cable products and the SMF-28 Contour and ULL fiber products.
“We are the first and only to combine three things — the lowest loss, compatibility and best bend performance into one fiber,” Deutsch said. “There are different standards, depending on how small the bend diameter is and how many times you can bend that fiber around the mandrel tool. This is a tough one, with A2 bend specifications.” A2 refers to the ITU-T G.657A2 standard for single-mode fiber bend radius and flexibility.
“Also, our fiber does comply with G.652” Deutsch said, referring to the ITU-T G.652 standard. “With low loss and A2 compliance, the fiber also is what we call backwards compatible. Backwards compatible means to maintain the mode field of the fiber to the nominal standard of 9.2 microns. That is important for splicing with the existing networks, not only for outside plant, but also when going from outside plant to inside plant where people used the specialty or special bendable fibers — A2 fibers in the past — in new cabinets, shelters and base stations.”
The new SMF-28 Contour fiber combines all three optimum performance elements. In addition, it comes in a smaller, 190-micron outer diameter that allows denser cable to meet customers’ density requirements,” Deutsch said. “With 5G, the fiber counts are going up significantly in the cable,” he said. “You don’t want the cables to be bigger, so you package them denser.”
The compact MiniXtend XD 192-fiber cable provides installers with greater flexibility in tighter spaces without sacrificing fiber density or deployment speed, according to Corning documentation, enabling 33 percent more fibers per duct compared with legacy MiniXtend HD cable and 70 percent faster cable access compared with traditional cable designs. Deutsch said the innovation appeals to carriers that build wireless and wireline networks. The innovation from Corning will assist them in increasing the capacity to their cell towers, rooftops sites and small cells.
“The MiniXtend cable is very forgiving with its bend performance in what we call macrobending,” Deutsch said. “When you bend the fiber, as in a splice closure, it lets you bend it tighter because it allows higher fiber-counts in the enclosure, and in a cable with fibers that press on each other. That pressing creates what we call microbending. This fiber is a lot more micro-bend resilient than previous generations of Corning fibers of than fibers from other manufacturers. That improvement will help the fibers’ density in the handbook.”
An innovation in the RocketRibbon cable portfolio includes what Corning calls the world’s first armored cables with the company’s FastAccess technology.
“Cables with FastAccess technology have a feature that lets you peel open the jacket or even the steel armor inside the cable without the need of special tools,” Deutsch said. “It’s faster and safer, and despite the armor, people don’t get hurt.” The cables come in armored and non-armored versions.
According to Corning documentation, the innovative ribbon protection comes in 288-fiber, 432-fiber, and 864-fiber variations. The compact designs enable up to twice as much fiber per duct and 60 percent faster cable access than existing solutions, while maintaining the advantages of a backward-compatible and proven industry-standard ribbon design.
Compared with standard single-mode fibers, Corning’s newest long-haul terrestrial fiber, SMF-28 ULL fiber with advanced bend, enables twice the capacity and reach at data rates of 800 G and greater, at a lower cost per bit. ULL stands for ultra-low-loss.
“This is multi-diameter on purpose to launch more power in a different priority to achieve longer reach,” Deutsch said. “Corning has the expertise to develop hybrids that meet several requirements at the same time.”
In summing up the cable and fiber innovations, Deutsch said, “These types of innovations don’t come every year, so we are excited that we were able to match these attributes of low attenuation, good bend performance, backwards compatibility and density into one fiber that is unique in the world. It is technically challenging to do this, but we figured it out. I’m extremely proud of my technology team.”
Reliable, high-speed connectivity has never been more vital, from access networks, to cloud data centers, to smart buildings, to the promise of 5G, according to Deutsch. “Optical fiber, cable and connectivity are at the center of all these technologies,” he said. “As bandwidth demands accelerate, Corning remains at the forefront of innovation for every segment of the network.”
Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.
After successful trials in September, Verizon Business and Corning have begun installing Verizon’s 5G mmWave small cell service in Verizon retail locations and in WeWork flexible office space locations.
“We are trying to enable a cost-effective way to get 5G deployed inside an enterprise,” said Michael O’Day, vice president of Corning Optical Communications. “We are creating a cell inside a building that covers 2,000 to 4,000 square feet, depending on the density of users.”
Corning’s indoor 5G solution features a fully integrated baseband unit – radios and antennas – which uses Corning’s composite cable (fiber for data transmission and copper for power) instead of a coaxial cable used for DAS or a CAT 5 cable used for Wi-Fi. The integrated baseband unit fits into a 1u 19-inch rack, which is typically situated on-prem, but the software could be located in a centralized location. The controller works in two different directions, integrating back into the Verizon core network and forward connecting to multiple radio nodes.
Verizon’s 5G network is currently based on higher frequencies in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands, known as the millimeter-wave band. These bands are known for wide channels, high speeds, low latency and short propagation. Integrators will be on a learning curve to deploy millimeter-wave technology indoors, because of the different propagation characteristics.
“You have to be smart about where you place the radios to maximize the coverage based on knowing the location of the walls, doors and windows, and there will be more radio nodes because the millimeter waves don’t penetrate through walls very well,” O’Day said. “Engineering and designing 5G inside a building is difficult, so our architecture makes it easy to put radios in the spots where people need the most bandwidth.”
He envisions future in-building wireless networks designed with a mix of 5G small cells and 4G LTE small cells to provide optimized coverage and capacity.
Every carrier has licensed frequencies in a variety of bands that it has acquired over the years and has a different strategy based on those spectrum holdings. Corning will enable those operators to deploy indoor 5G systems over a variety of spectrum bands.
“I think you are going to see a lot of 5G delivered over C band in buildings, because it gives you the ability to provide more bandwidth that is more affordable and because it may not require as much densification,” O’Day said.
John Madden, chied analyst at Mobile Experts, said the Corning system is one of several technologies with which Verizon is experimenting for indoor 5G coverage.
“I consider this next year as a time of experimentation for indoor 5G technologies to see which ones are most effective and most economical, and then we will see those ramp up,” Madden said. “I think this Corning announcement is pretty promising, because it is a decent product that is worth watching.”
Some buildings may receive their 5G signal through an over-the-air repeater, because of the low cost and ease compared with pulling fiber through a building, Madden added.
“The Corning system gets you high capacity and low latency, and a repeater is more for residential, light industrial applications,” he said. “Different buildings will need different solutions.”
The agreement with WeWork is a sign of just how important indoor wireless has become to land new tenants in the office building market, which has become even more competitive with the work-from-home trend.
Although the key standard for ultra-reliable and low-latency communication (URLLC) (3GPP Release 17) won’t be finalized in June of 2021, industry connections and long-term data allow Mobile Experts to confidently anticipate strong pre-investment in Private 5G networks ahead of the standard’s completion.
“Companies like Volkswagen, Toyota, Siemens, and ABB are investing in private 5G networks and expect to control robots using 5G URLLC in their factories despite the fact that standards may force some changes. They’ll be deploying radios anyway, so we foresee a strong market picking up around 2023,” Madden said.
Present investments are a long-term market bet, but as premium tariff opportunities arise, operators will investigate this market in the next five years and solid revenue opportunities will materialize in the long term, according to the new Mobile Experts report.
The global small cell 5G network market was valued $521 million in 2019 and is anticipated to grow with at a rate of more than 31.2 percent during the forecast period 2020-2027, according to Market Insight Reports.
Stalking the Elusive Middleprise
The target market of Verizon’s 5G mmWave service will be office buildings with 100 thousand to 500 thousand square feet, also known as middleprise, which heretofore was seen as too small for carrier-funded systems and unnecessary by office building owners.
“The model for an enterprise customer,” O’Day said, “could be a six-story, 220,000-square-foot building that has a variety of users, perhaps a corporate headquarters, mixed use office space, like WeWork.”
Corning’s indoor cell site is designed to provide Verizon’s 5G mmWave service inside facilities such as hospitals, manufacturing facilities, warehouses, schools, ports, commercial office space, retail stores and any indoor environment where large amounts of data traffic must be managed and optimized. The launch of these indoor cell sites will not only extend the footprint of Verizon’s 5G network, but also will eventually enable private networks with mobile edge compute (MEC) capabilities, according to Verizon Business.
Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business, said: “By combining access to our 5G Ultra Wideband service indoors with a private MEC platform and a private core that helps to run the operations of the network, an enterprise will be able to have a secure, ultra-reliable, high-speed, low-latency private 5G solution.”
Having all three components (5G Ultra Wideband service indoors, private MEC, private network core) of the private 5G network in a single facility will increase speed and efficiency by eliminating the need for data to cross through multiple routers and across large geographies. It will also eliminate the need to share core resources with the macro network and offer the flexibility to develop specific capabilities customized to the private network owner.
A private 5G network will accelerate enterprise automation and digitization efforts, enhance how customers interact in a retail environment, support sensors and alerts in all aspects of an operation and provide real-time, on-site video analysis. With Verizon’s mmWave bandwidth and reliability, it will offer the scalability to manage massive numbers of devices along with advanced capabilities such as edge artificial intelligence, computer vision and other emerging technologies.
More than 50 years ago, Corning scientists Drs. Robert Maurer, Donald Keck, and Peter Schultz were brought together to develop a highly pure optical glass that could effectively transmit light signals over long distances – a feat that had never been achieved.
Since then, that invention has enabled the development of new technologies in data communications, video streaming, cloud computing, and more that enable the connected lifestyle the world is accustomed to today.
Today, Corning is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its invention of low-loss optical fiber. The breakthrough material, each strand thinner than a human hair, made possible today’s ever-faster telecommunications networks that link neighborhoods, connect cities, and bridge continents.
“Our invention of low-loss optical fiber ushered in a communications revolution,” said Wendell P. Weeks, chairman, CEO, and president. “Fifty years ago, few could have imagined the impact of optical fiber on our world today, but that’s what we do at Corning – we create innovations that transform industries, enhance people’s lives, and continue to unleash significant new capabilities.”
In the mid-1960s, it became clear to researchers at the company and to the larger telecommunications industry that the existing copper wire infrastructure used to transfer data and voice would not have enough bandwidth for the projected traffic of the future.
During this time period, members of the British Post Office came to Corning seeking assistance in creating pure glass fiber optics. Their design required a single-mode fiber having a total attenuation – or signal loss — of about 20 decibels per kilometer.
The very best bulk optical glasses of the day had attenuations of around 1,000 dB/km. This meant the scientists had to see an improvement in transparency of 1098 in order to reach the 20 dB/km goal.
The task seemed impossible, but their successful technological breakthrough forever changed the world.
“This invention started a communications revolution. Corning Optical Communications proudly continues that legacy today.” said Michael Bell, senior vice president and general manager, Corning Optical Communications.
Dr. Keck recalled the breakthrough, saying: “I knew something was very, very special and unique about this fiber… I hastily measured the results. It was a very short piece of fiber; we thought we got a very good measurement. I recorded in the databook: ’17 dB/km, whoopee;’ We’ve met our goal.”
Since that moment on Aug. 7, 1970, Corning has delivered over a billion fiber kilometers and operates several optical fiber plants globally. And even more impressively, this single invention led to what is today Corning’s largest business segment – Optical Communications – in which applications such as fiber to the home, indoor wireless technology, and hyperscale data centers are served. 5G accessibility, the cloud, and almost any connection people make today on electronic devices ties back to that moment of discovery.
As they toiled in their lab that summer in 1970, Drs. Maurer, Keck, and Schultz could not have imagined what their discovery would make possible 50 years later. In that same way, today’s Optical Communications team that invents, manufactures, and sells Corning’s industry-leading fiber, cable, and connectivity solutions can scarcely imagine what this landmark discovery will make possible in the next 50 years.
Corning invites you to join in the celebration and visit http://www.corning.com/50YearsOfFiber and follow #50YearsofFiber on social media.