Author(s): Raghu Gopal
With the introduction of low-loss optical fibre technology more than four decades ago, Corning helped usher in a new era of fixed-line communications. Now, fibre is becoming an increasingly important element of 5G deployment strategies.
This week, at the 2017 Fiber Connect event in Orlando, Florida, Corning launched a multi-use platform capable of supporting a mix of network architectures in the same fibre-optic backbone. The platform could become a significant supporting element to further 4G connectivity and to advance the build-out of 5G networks.
Corning's platform uses a converged architecture which is smaller than standard industry solutions and offers versatile components that can be customised to fit a broad range of needs. The company says the platform enables plug-and-play functionality through connection points built into cables every 1,000 feet, simplifying the mechanics of adding small cells or pulling fibre into homes as splicing isn't necessary. The access points support both single-fibre and multifibre options, enabling operators to use the same network location to deliver a mix of residential, business, wireless backhaul and other services.
A potentially easier installation of fibre could result in cost savings compared with traditional field-termination methods. Corning claims that installations which may have taken weeks previously can now be completed in hours — an enticing thought for operators looking to deploy fibre networks for fixed data services as well as backhaul for 5G.
It appears that fibre will play a critical part in the roll-out of 5G networks, offering operators wireless connectivity for the last mile and allowing them to rely on fibre networks for the backbone.
We recently noted that Corning announced a $1.05 billion deal with Verizon as the carrier plans its 5G services (see Miles of Light). Verizon will purchase up to 12.4 million miles of optical fibre from Corning each year from 2018 to 2020 as it aims to improve its network architecture to boost 4G performance and accelerate 5G deployment. The deal will also enable Verizon to offer fixed wireless services that lean on fast mobile connectivity for the last leg of the journey into residences and businesses.
Despite the apparent juxtaposition of fibre and wireless networks, fibre will have an essential supporting role in the build-out of fast wireless connectivity thanks to higher frequencies and broader access. Fibre and 5G will complement each other.