Corning teams with Nokia to give rural fiber players an ‘easy button’

Corning is looking to give smaller and rural operators a boost in the supply chain battle, partnering with Nokia and telecom equipment distributor Wesco to deliver a new fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) kit that will allow ISPs to cover 1,000 homes at a clip. Stephen Mitchell, SVP of carrier networks at Corning, told Fierce the solution is designed to level the playing field for the “most vulnerable” operators as they face off against Tier-1 operators in a constrained supply environment.

The new FTTH package builds on a Network in a Box solution Nokia debuted in June. That kit included the active elements of the network, everything from the optical line terminal and optical network terminal to the Wi-Fi units for in-home use. Corning is now adding passive components into the mix. Specifically, Mitchell said the kit will include its FlexNAP plug and play fiber solutions to cover everything from the cabinet all the way to the drop connectors that reach a consumer’s home.

Over the past few years, wait time for telecom equipment ballooned to as long as 24 months. But Corning has been working to ramp its manufacturing capacity. In August, it announced plans to build a new optical cable plant in Arizona and the following month it turned up a new manufacturing plant in Poland.

Mitchell said its efforts to build up capacity have been successful. Lead times for the majority of connectorized cables and other passive components included in the kit are back to pre-pandemic levels, he said, and in any event Corning is planning ahead for demand.

For its part, Wesco will provide the necessary logistics and distribution support to ensure the kits actually make it to operator job sites in the field. Headquartered in Pennsylvania, Wesco has 43 facilities that operate as regional distribution centers in key geographic areas across North America, Europe and South America, its 2021 annual report showed.

Mitchell explained the decision to team up with Nokia and Wesco came in response to a “push and pull” combination of factors: the push from the suppliers and the pull from customer demand. Customers, by the way, include everyone from small and rural operators to municipalities and electric cooperatives, he added.

Put together, the idea is to smooth the way for the players that are poised to “play a big role” but are “probably the most vulnerable” to supply issues, Mitchell said. While Corning already plays in the Tier-2 and Tier-3 operator market, this move is about making fiber rollouts easier for such companies.

“It’s a unique opportunity for us to help press the easy button for the customers and supply them the product and the logistics they need to deploy a fiber-to-the-home network,” he concluded.