For Prysmian Group, the twin tides of 5G and demand for high-speed broadband combined with the benefits of local manufacturing, are positioning its 6912 fiber MassLink Cable with FlexLink Technology for a strong new year with CSPs and hyperscale data centers.
The market for all types of fiber optical cable worldwide continues to surge, with an anticipated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.2% between 2018 and 2026, according to ResearchandMarkets. By 2026, sales will hit almost $8 billion, the research firm estimated.
And while it's only a small portion of the overall fiber optic market, cables using flexible ribbon technology will generate a growing footprint as service providers densify their fiber for 5G and high-speed broadband delivery in more saturated markets, Jon Fitz, director of product management at Prysmian Group North America, told Broadband World News.
Fiber is gold to service providers: Last year, for example, Verizon inked a $300 million deal with Prysmian Group, shortly after signing a three-year, $1 billion-plus deal with Corning. (See Verizon Inks 2nd Fiber Purchase Order)
Produced in Lexington, S.C. and sourced within the US, the 6912 fiber MassLink with FlexRibbon Technology has a very compact external plant cable design featuring 6,912 bend-insensitive fibers whose cable diameter fits into a 2-inch duct. Unlike non-standard or "flat" ribbon technology, the almost 7,000 fibers are bound together in a way that lets them easily conform to the interior of the cable versus forcing the proverbial "square peg into a round hole," Fitz explained.
With FlexRibbon technology, 200-um fiber ribbons are rolled up and packed together in small diameter sub units that still provide the advantages of mass fusion splicing, he added. In addition to eliminating or reducing wasted space, this also dramatically cuts stress and allows operators to increase the number of fibers in the same duct, said Fitz.
"If we go to make the tube fit tightly, where does the pressure show up? It shows up at the corners. I end up putting a lot of stress on the fibers at the corners of these squares," he said. "One of the chief advantages of flexible ribbon -- what we call FlexRibbon -- is the fibers are only loosely connected together. If I want to take the fibers and bunch them up together in a circle it doesn't matter. They don't care. It solves both problems: They're no longer constrained to being in a square stack. And because they are pliable, if I have them tightly fitted into a space, there's not one fiber getting all the pressure. When we make that cable, we twist them and oscillate them, and things like that to equalize the stresses."
Service providers are becoming more and more interested in ribbon for specific use cases when, for example, existing duct size is full, said Fitz. Other applications where the higher cost for ribbon pays for itself -- perhaps even for the first deployment of the duct -- include buildings (such as historic locales), infrastructure (like bridges or tunnels) and ecologically sensitive areas (including the Everglades or national parks), he noted.
"You're going to cross a bridge. You've got a duct. You'd be foolish to populate it with only the fiber that you need right now," said Fitz. "There are some clear-cut places where, if you're only going to get one chance -- and not another one for 30 years."
Made in the USA
South Carolina -- proud home to BMW, Clemson University and Lockwood Greene -- also houses the production plant for Prysmian Group's 6912 fiber MassLink.
"Hyperscale data centers are driving demand for ultra-high fiber count cables and, with the U.S. leading the world in hyperscale data center construction, it makes sense to produce these cables domestically,' said Greg Williams, sales director at Prysmian Group, in a statement. "As such, Prysmian Group has made strategic investments in both equipment and personnel to produce the 6912F FlexRibbon cable entirely in the USA."
The vendor manufactures multiple FlexRibbon lines in the US, added Fitz, and will no doubt add to that roster in the future. Some customers mandate suppliers' products are American-made.
And, in addition to better control of quality and quantity of components and accelerating delivery, being located in the US avoids potential tariff issues that may or may not arise. Fiber optic cables, which include different components, could be subject to a complex array of tariffs; by manufacturing in the States, Prysmian Group avoids all these potential concerns.
Plus, notes Fitz, employees feel good.
"I live in the United States and obviously I like to see folks here have good job opportunities. We're expanding our capacity, which is creating jobs and we just feel like, all around, it's a good thing," he said. "It's good to do that, here in South Carolina."
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.