Ciena ramps up domestic manufacturing for BEAD

Ciena is teaming up with electronics manufacturer Flex to build pluggable optical line terminals (OLTs) and optical network units (ONUs) in the U.S. – a move it said will support Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) projects.

Through its partnership with Ciena, Flex will provide the vendor “advanced manufacturing capabilities,” such as specialized optical transceiver assembly and supply chain services. Ciena expects to start production of its OLTs and ONUs at a Flex factory in mid-2024.

Ciena didn’t specify the location of the factory but said it will create new jobs and help ISPs comply with the BEAD program’s Build America, Buy America (BABA) rules, which require grant awardees use products and materials that contain at least 55% domestic content.

“We are excited to announce the first U.S.-based manufacture of our unique pluggable optical line terminal (OLT) solution,” said Ciena CEO Gary Smith in a statement, adding Ciena will continue “to work closely with the NTIA and Department of Commerce” to help connect the unconnected.

Ciena is one of a number of vendors that are onshoring manufacturing to comply with Buy America requirements. Nokia in August announced it will produce fiber network electronics at a facility in Kenosha, Wisconsin. India-based STL this fall formally opened its first U.S.-based manufacturing plant in Lugoff, South Carolina.

Others that announced plans to ramp up domestic fiber production include Corning, CommScope, Prismian Group and Viavi.

NTIA Chief Alan Davidson stated, “NTIA thanks Ciena for joining the growing set of companies stepping up and answering President Biden’s call to bring manufacturing jobs home.”

The agency this summer proposed some waivers to Buy America rules. One of the waivers stated all electronics in BEAD program projects may use components sourced outside of the U.S., with the exception of OLTs, OLT Line Cards, Optic Pluggables as well as ONUs and Optical Network Terminals (ONTs).

Fierce Telecom reached out to NTIA at the time asking why it did not propose any waivers for OLTs or ONTs. It cited three blogs, such as this one, touting the expansion of OLT and ONT manufacturing in the U.S.

Separately, Ciena continues to sell its 800G-capable coherent optical products. Earlier this month, it revealed it’s shipped more than 100,000 WaveLogic 5 Extreme modems, with more than 250 customers now using the technology.