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Corning exploits nanotechnology to launch ultrabendable fiber

02 Aug 2007

The US fiber manufacturer claims that its new optical fiber is '100 times more bendable' than standard fiber.

Corning has developed an optical fiber technology that solves a longstanding challenge faced by telecommunications carriers installing fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks. The new nanoStructures optical fiber allows a cabled fiber to be bent around tight corners with virtually no signal loss, which will make it much easier for service providers to route fiber all the way to customers’ homes.

The improved bendability will enable carriers to offer optical broadband services to virtually all commercial and residential buildings. Current optical fiber installations lose signal strength and effectiveness when bent around corners and routed through a building, making it difficult and expensive to run fiber to hard-to-reach locations, such as condominiums in apartment blocks.

"Our customers have identified the multiple dwelling unit (MDU) space as an important growth opportunity for them and one that involves unique challenges," said Peter Volanakis, president and COO at Corning. "It became clear to us that a truly bend-insensitive fiber might help our customers meet their MDU needs.”

More people live in MDUs than any other type of homes, with more than 680 million apartment homes worldwide and than 25 million in the United States alone. But MDUs have been lagging behind other FTTP deployments, partly due to the higher installation costs. Corning says that its bend-insensitive fiber makes MDU installations easier, faster and less costly.

According to Corning, this has been achieved by incorporating nanoscale structures into the fiber to control its refractive index profile, rather than changing the composition of the glass. This allows the user to control the transmission of light through the fiber more effectively, which in turn enables the fiber to be bent into tight spaces with virtually no signal loss.

In fact, Corning claims that its nanoStructures based fiber allows a "bend performance" some 100 times better than that of standard singlemode fibers. Volankis described the development, which will become commercially available later in the year, as a "game-changing technology for telecommunications applications".

"We have developed an optical fiber cable that is as rugged as copper cable but with all of the bandwidth benefits of fiber," he said. "The new fiber also enables simpler and more aesthetically pleasing designs for cable, hardware and associated equipment. And it does this while maintaining compatibility with industry performance standards so customers don't have to sacrifice one benefit to get another."

One of the early proponents of the technology is Verizon Communications. In February 2007, Corning and Verizon commissioned a joint working team to solve the problems of MDU installation using the new fiber solution.

Corning will introduce a full suite of optical fiber, cable and hardware and equipment solutions based on its nanoStructures technology platform this fall at the Fiber-to-the-Home Conference in Orlando, Florida, between September 30 and October 4.

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