Corning Gets the Bends
Corning's a bit vague when talking about the specifics of how it accomplishes this feat. The layman's verison is that the new technology is based on a nanostructure optical fiber design. The new fiber has the same chemical elements as regular fiber, but the atoms are arranged in such a way that the fiber now has a greater ability to trap light. So that bit of magic means it won't lose signals when it's snaked around corners or wound up in circles.
The technology was developed with the input of some of Corning's customers, most notably Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). "This will help us get fiber even deeper into apartment buildings," says Bill Belben, director of network solutions at Verizon.
The fiber-to-the-home deployments that Verizon is currently doing in MDUs often aren't truly fiber all the way to the customers' homes. That's because in many buildings, the fiber actually terminates in the basement or hallways, with coaxial cable or VDSL making up the last few feet to the actual apartment unit. (See Fiber-to-the-MDU: Verizon's Manhattan Project.) In the past, Verizon has been inhibited from running fiber through the buildings because of the difficulty of doing so without bending it and therefore compromising the signal.
A more flexible fiber, Belben says, changes the way installations are done within the confines of standing constructions. "There are a number of labor reductions and productivity improvements that can save us some money," says Belben. For example, he says, the fiber could limit the number of microducts that are typically installed in buildings when running cables throughout.
Verizon expects to start deploying this new fiber some time next year. Corning will come forth with more details about its breakthrough at the Fiber-to-the-Home Conference in Orlando, Fla., this October. After that, Verizon will conduct extensive field testing of the equipment before it starts deploying it in actual buildings.
It should be noted, though, that Corning's not the first to bend fiber. Though the application was different, NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT) talked up bendable fiber several years ago and now has fiber-to-the-home kits that folks can self-install. The fiber length included in the kits can be wound around corners and is far more durable than typical optical fiber. (See NTT Pushes Do-It-Yourself FTTH.} — Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading