Corning Glass Fiber Is Integral to Wireless


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Who knew? Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but it was Corning (NYSE: GLW) that invented the glass encasement for the filament that produced the light. Moreover, Corning figured out how to mass produce the encasements, thus making light bulbs affordable for the general population. That was in 1879!

From its origins as Corning Glass Works over 165 years ago, Corning Inc. today is a materials science innovator with world-leading expertise in glass, ceramics, and optical physics. The company takes pride in bringing “life-changing innovation” to the world.

Corning has a long list of notable inventions: Pyrex cookware in 1917, cathode ray tubes for the first television sets in 1939, heat-resistant windows for Project Mercury astronauts in 1961 and on every manned space flight vehicle ever since, low-loss optical fiber in 1970 that enabled local and long-distance, high-speed communications, and damage-resistant Gorilla Glass in 2007 that is widely-used for touch screens on smartphones and computers. 

The list goes on. Corning’s innovations have produced an intellectual property library of nearly 10,000 patents.

Corning’s five reportable segments – Display Technologies, Optical Communications, Environment Technologies, Specialty Materials and Life Sciences — generated world-wide net sales of $11.5 billion in 2019, up 2 percent from $11.3 billion in 2018. Global in scale, the company manufacturers products at 116 plants in 15 countries.

The Optical Communications segment is the largest in terms of sales and accounted for $4.1 billion or 35 percent of the 2019 total.

Since inventing low-loss fiber optic cable and having manufactured over one billion fiber-kilometers since 1970, the Optical Communications segment continues to introduce new fiber cable and connectivity solutions. With global fixed and mobile bandwidth demand escalating, service providers continue to migrate their networks to optical-based systems that deliver required cost-effective bandwidth carrying capacity. 

This segment supplies optical cable and connectivity products for both carrier and Enterprise networks and in data centers.

Wireline carriers use Corning’s fiber-to-the-premise or fiber-to-the-home solutions for connecting residences and businesses with high-speed voice, data, and video services.

In April 2017, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) agreed to purchase a minimum of $1 billion of Corning’s optical solutions through 2020 for both expansion of its residential and Enterprise fiber-to-the-home/-premise offerings and to support 4G LTE and 5G cell site backhaul and connectivity needs. Corning is supplying Verizon with up to 20 million kilometers of optical fiber annually. 

Corning points out that “denser 4G and new 5G networks are driving a need for two orders of magnitude, more fiber and connectivity, compared to legacy [wireless] networks.” In response, the company offers innovations such as a multiuse platform that speeds up deployments along with compact cabinets and micro-cables for crowded environments.

In 2019, CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL), the U.S.’s third largest wireline carrier, inked a deal for 4.7 million fiber miles for its intercity network across the U.S. and into parts of Europe.

On July 15, Corning and Enersys (NYSE: ENS), a telecom power specialist, announced a collaboration to supply combined fiber and power cable connectivity solutions for faster 5G small cell deployments.

For Enterprise in-building wireless solutions, Corning has offered, since 2013, its Corning ONE™ all-optical distributed antenna systems platform for large building applications. The company acquired SpiderCloud Wireless in 2017 to add small cells to its in-building wireless solution set.

Data centers at the heart of the internet and wireless network are benefiting from Corning’s fiber optic cabling solutions. More important, the company is developing glass technologies to produce all-optical inside switches, routers and servers.

The Optical Communications segment registered 1Q20 sales of $791 million or 31 percent of total sales, declining 15 percent compared to 1Q19. The decrease was due to capital expenditure cutbacks in fiber deployments by its major carrier customers.

Impacts of COVID-19 added to the slowdown leading Corning to withdraw its full-year 2020 financial guidance.

By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor

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