Total Telecom met with with Mike Knott, Market Development Manager, FTTH, Corning, to discuss the emerging trends in Britain’s connectivity landscape

What is Corning’s role in supporting the move towards high-speed connectivity across Britain?

Corning has developed and supplied FTTH product solutions since the early deployments of FTTH networks almost 20 years ago and has helped to connect over 38 million homes with hardened connectivity globally to date.

One of our most notable contributions to FTTH deployment was the creation of the hardened OptiTap® connector, which is a widely deployed pre-connectorised solution in the UK and the pioneering product for the “Plug & Play” approach to FTTH deployments. 

Beyond this, we’ve worked closely with operators to develop a product portfolio which spans the full FTTH deployment process. This includes the OptiTap® Aerial Hybrid Drop Solution, which employs a number of innovative design mechanics to enable field engineers to safely and rapidly deploy FTTH.


What are the key challenges in FTTH deployment? 

While there is widespread agreement as to the validity of FTTH as an effective and powerful solution, the cost of deployment is still a major challenge to the business case for FTTH as a whole.

Much of Corning’s activity in the FTTH space has focused on improving the deployment process and associated costs. The use of a pre-connectorised solution eases the handling of fibre and avoids the need to fusion splice in the field, as well as the requirement for other special tools and equipment.

It also boosts speed to deployment, which is a major challenge and area of competition amongst operators. Once FTTH has been deployed it is very hard for a competitor to push their offering in the same space so we’re seeing a real race to cover territory in the UK, with lots of new operators getting involved too.


How is reliability of service guaranteed prior to solutions being put into the field?

When network operators deploy FTTH, every component is critical, but none more so than the hardened connector. These connectors, used alone or integrated into hardware products, must be able to protect against environmental factors common in the outside plant, such as extreme temperatures, moisture, humidity, and other harsh conditions. They also form the connections that can make or break a network. When deploying hardened connectors, reliability is crucial.

We conduct extensive and rigorous approval testing before our products leave the factory to ensure every customer gets a product they can depend on for years to come.

Corning products are tested to Telcordia GR-3120, a U.S. specification that even exceeds the well-established IP68 rating for environmental protection.


Should 5G and FTTH be considered as complimentary or competing technologies? 

It’s important to understand that FTTH and 5G and are not competing technologies, they’re intrinsically linked. Tomorrow’s 5G networks will need what amounts to almost an FTTH network to support the backhaul requirements of the huge proliferation of wireless devices. The networks will converge, and that requires a higher level of flexibility in the outside plant. At Corning we have developed our Multi Use Platform which can meet these complex connectivity requirements.

Optical fibre is also the enabler at the infrastructure level of fixed mobile converged networks. With it, we can connect all of the different services, like fronthaul, backhaul, FTTH, FTTB, dark fibre, and more, in a given area using the same optical fibre cable infrastructure and even the same fibre strand (if we multiplex all of these services in one fibre). 

Optical fibre launched the age of optical communications and ultimately transformed the way we create, share, and consume information and is today once again of paramount importance as an enabler of 5G technology and its incredible applications.


Where is the UK positioned relative to the rest of Europe for FTTH deployments?

When looking at wider EU trends, the most recent IDATE FTTH/B Market Panorama Report painted a positive picture for FTTH. We have healthy growth rates, more focus now on FTTH than FTTB, incumbents and alternative operators both active, more countries like for example Ireland now showing in the ranking.

Despite this, economic powerhouses like Germany, UK and Italy, which are normally high in EU economic rankings, are right down at the bottom largely because of their previous investments in VDSL.

While the UK market is still in its relative infancy, the market is picking up significantly with a new breed of alternative operators that are driving FTTH forward. 


Mike Knott will be participating in a panel session at 11.05am on June 19th discussing 5G and Gigabit Britain at this year’s Connected Britain event. Click here for the full agenda.