CommScope ramps fiber manufacturing capacity with NC plant expansion

CommScope has two manufacturing facilities in the U.S. today capable of churning out 2 billion feet of fiber drop cable per year, but it’s looking to bump that figure up even higher. The company this week announced plans to spend $60.3 million on an expansion of its plant facilities in the state of North Carolina.

Once complete, the new facility will allow CommScope to produce more loose tubes as well as additional fiber cable counts and styles. The latter might include more of the HeliARC cables for rural deployments it debuted in March.

It was not immediately clear whether the $60.3 million expansion included a $47 million investment CommScope previously announced in March. The company did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

The move comes as CommScope and other vendors prepare to meet an expected tidal wave of demand that will come once states begin making grants with money from the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program. Corning recently unveiled plans to open a new fiber manufacturing facility in Arizona, while India-based STL in May opened its first U.S. fiber plant in South Carolina.

“We have long been committed to supplying our partners with the solutions necessary to bring broadband to everyone,” CommScope CEO Chuck Treadway said in a statement, adding its latest move “furthers our commitment to meet the objectives of the BEAD program.”

Notably, the BEAD program is subject to Buy American rules which require grant awardees use products and materials that contain at least 55% domestic content. The U.S. government recently waived the Buy American requirement for the $1 billion Middle Mile grant program but not for BEAD. Thus, boosting its ability to manufacture fiber domestically could be a boon for CommScope.

During a Q1 2023 earnings call, Treadway said the company was “experiencing a pause in orders as customers deal with recessionary impacts on their business, including inventory management.” But he said CommScope was optimistic about longer-term prospects.

“We believe CCS has strong market tailwinds and that we are at the beginning of a multiyear build out of fiber cable and connectivity,” he stated. “We are well-positioned to deliver against significantly higher demand.”