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In an exclusive interview with Piers Benjamin, EMEA In-Building Networks (IBN) marketing manager, Corning Optical Communications, we gain insights on how Corning innovates its fiber and connectivity solutions, supports broadband expansion and brings high-speed connections to more people in more communities.

In what ways is Corning contributing to the demands for high-speed connectivity in the EMEA region, especially in light of rapid 5G deployments globally?

The region has been at the forefront of 5G deployments globally, with countries like the UAE aiming to have all inhabited areas of the country under 5G network coverage by the end of 2025. Over the years, it has become a common sentiment in the industry that fiber is the best choice to deliver the densified Radio Access Network (RAN) capacity needed for 5G. Hence, a substantial investment in the fiber infrastructure is needed in order to unlock the potential of 5G. However, unlike other networks in the past, 5G networks do not have to be built from scratch and can be developed by adding new components to already existing infrastructure.

It is paramount for us to keep innovating to develop Corning fiber and connectivity solutions that address 5G network expansion and future needs. Earlier this year, we introduced the MiniXtend HD cables for 12 to 72 fibers and MiniXtend XD cables for 192 and 288 fibers, representing the next step in Corning’s ongoing mission to provide solutions that are smaller, denser, easier and faster to use. The MiniXtend cable family was designed to help solve rising demand for unlimited bandwidth capacity and address escalating network duct congestion and convergence as fiber is pushed ever deeper into the network. In June, we also introduced our latest innovation, Corning SMF-28® Contour optical fiber. Corning SMF-28® Contour is the industry’s first fiber to combine low loss, a compatible mode field diameter and ITU-T G.657.A2 bend resilience in a single fiber. These attributes will help telecommunications operators address the build-out of 5G networks with efficient use of existing infrastructure and efficiency in installation.  

In August, we introduced Corning’s new Evolv connectivity solutions, which help operators streamline permitting, accelerate field installation and optimize network testing, providing an expanded toolkit to deploy ever-expanding fiber networks efficiently. Additionally, we have been growing our portfolio of breakout cables, especially focused on FTTA deployments that are factory terminated and tested, with different connectivity options and cable types, providing the flexibility and accuracy that network operators require when considering 5G deployments.

Through continuous innovation, our longstanding relationships with carriers and our track record in building and deploying networks, Corning plays an integral part in building 5G networks across the region.

Please tell us about the In-Building Networks (IBN) Solutions Fiber-to-the-Edge and how it is changing 5G network operations.

From offices to retail structures, the most important factors when considering commercial buildings are no longer physical attributes such as location, aesthetics and amenities. Instead, advances in technology have emerged as key differentiators between effective and ineffective infrastructures. Individuals across industries are recognizing the need for commercial buildings to have holistically equipped network capabilities. In a digitally driven age, connectivity has become the lifeblood of all modern businesses, hospitality venues, medical and educational institutions, etc.

A great example of the breadth of our IBN solutions is in the work we have done with Resorts World Las Vegas, which is the largest hotel property built on the Las Vegas strip since 2011. With over 3,500 rooms on the property, a gaming floor and an integrated technology experience, a first-rate connectivity solution was essential to the hotel's success. For a large, technology-heavy hotel venue such as this hotel, a traditional network would require hundreds of telecom rooms. By using Corning® Everon™ Network Solutions, the hotel only needed 24 telecom rooms across the 88-acre property, and a state-of-the-art software-defined network was distributed over a fiber-to-the-room and remote-DC power architecture.

While the demand for fiber increases as smart and connected building technologies continue to emerge, there is still a place for copper. In the LAN environment, the reality is that many companies still aren’t dealing with the kinds of bandwidth demands that would make most copper classes and categories ineffective. The best approach for buildings is a network infrastructure based on a strong, reliable fiber backbone and with copper for point-to-point connections. This approach empowers multiple stakeholders within a building — including the owner, tenants and service providers — to access a single passive infrastructure to deploy the applications they need or prefer.

How is Corning cable deployment different than that of its competitors, and how has it impacted Corning's revenue growth over the years?

At Corning, our focus continues to be on our commitment to support broadband expansion and bring high-speed connections to more people in more communities. These initiatives, along with investments in 5G and cloud data centers, signal the early stages of a large, multi-year wave of growth for networks built on fiber with virtually unlimited bandwidth. Corning, as the inventor of low-loss optical fiber and as the world leader in passive optical communications, is uniquely positioned to support these network builds. We have continued to develop and deliver new generations of optical fiber technology over the years, which address the unique needs that are faced while driving the global expansion of broadband connectivity.

As part of this commitment, we opened a new optical fiber manufacturing facility in Mszczonów, Poland, last month to meet growing demand for high-speed connectivity in EMEA. The facility, one of the largest optical fiber plants in the European Union, is Corning’s latest in a series of global investments in fiber and cable manufacturing totaling more than $500 million since 2020, supported by growing demand and strong customer commitments.

Another important part of our operations in EMEA is the Corning Optical Communications Technology Center in Berlin (CTCB), which is focused on addressing the needs of Corning Optical Communications and other Corning businesses in the EMEA market, as well as the development of innovative solutions, solving customer challenges and utilizing the latest technologies in both collaboration and partnership.

These have all contributed to the global revenue growth, with the second quarter results indicating that sales grew 22% year over year and 10% sequentially, reaching $1.3 billion, driven by 5G, broadband and the cloud. Net income was $182 million, up 23% year over year, primarily driven by strong volume and price increases.

How is Corning collaborating with its strategic partners to deliver affordable, reliable high-speed internet to emerging markets?

In developing countries and remote communities where communication infrastructure is not consistent, there are challenges around access to both broadband and basic electricity. The sharing of infrastructure is becoming more critical as the world continues to digitize, especially in these emerging markets. Infrastructure sharing can take many forms — including the sharing of masts, sites, spectrums and base stations by competing telecom service providers — but the goal is largely the same: to lower the increasing investment costs for supporting services. Corning works closely with its partners in emerging markets to create solutions which allow for increased access to broadband and electricity.

Corning recently participated in a landmark project that took infrastructure sharing to new heights, tapping into the vast opportunities to transform communities with tailor-made solutions for the Ugandan market. This project was unique in the number of strategic partners involved. The project was led by GIZ, a German-based development agency that provides services in the field of international development, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and ADVA Optical Networking SE, and to execute the project, Corning partnered with the Ugandan Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (UMEME), the National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U) and the Uganda Communications Commission. A shared infrastructure concept known as “Electricity and Fiber to the Village’ (E-/FTTV) was developed to combine the rollout of electricity distribution lines and fiber optic cable in rural areas of Uganda.

Critical to the success of the project was the ability to utilize existing power lines to connect and extend fiber to key locations. Like many shared infrastructure projects, this helped build the business case for rural deployment in the area by driving efficiencies in cost and overcoming the logistical challenges of building a separate underground network. Corning provided 72 fiber aerial cables for the project, as well as inline closures, terminal closures and small wall terminals for termination inside the buildings.

The project went live in December 2020, and each of the four sites now has a grid connection and internet connectivity via fiber optic cable. The simultaneous rollout of the aerial fiber and grid saves up to 40% of the deployment costs from civil works and right-of-way, while the ICT ecosystem expands the use of electricity by enabling the use of applications including eGovernment, eHealth, eLearning and digital financial services. The cost savings, as well as the significant productivity improvements, have contributed to a positive business case for further expansion of rural infrastructure networks across Uganda.

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