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Corning Innovates Smaller, Easier-to-install Fiber-optic Cables

By Don Bishop

Bernhard Deutsch, vice president and general manager of optical fiber and cable at Corning.

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.”

With a combination of ITU-T G.657.A2 bend resilience, 9.2-micron mode field diameter and low loss, SMF-28 Contour fiber brings more reach to more places. Photo courtesy of Corning.

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.