CommScope debuts HeliARC fiber for rural builds, invests $47M in production

CommScope unveiled a new fiber cable it claimed will drive down installation costs for rural broadband builds, supporting the product's launch with enough production capacity to cover at least half a million homes per year. CEO Chuck Treadway said during a press conference CommScope plans to invest another $47 million to expand its fiber capacity even further.

According to Treadway, CommScope’s new HeliARC fiber is “smaller and lighter” than traditional fiber cable. This, he said, not only allows for more cable to be included in each shipment – thus reducing shipping costs and environmental impacts – but will also enable faster installation. A spec sheet for the product was not immediately available.

“This new technology was designed specifically for rural communities,” he said. “HeliARC will accelerate the development and deployment and drive down installation costs” for broadband.

Treadway said CommScope has already brought enough HeliARC production capacity online at its two facilities in North Carolina to enable the product to cover 500,000 passings per year. But he added the company plans to spend $47 million to further build its manufacturing muscle. This is expected to create an additional 250 jobs over the next five years, he said.

The announcement comes as the U.S. government prepares to dole out more than $42.5 billion in broadband grant money with the goal of connecting every American. Many unserved locations are in hard-to-reach rural areas of the country.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said at the press conference “the reality is this: you cannot connect rural America with coaxial cable. You can’t do it. It’s too big, too expensive.” But with CommScope’s “innovation with fiber, we are going to do this. We can actually do this.”

CommScope isn’t the only supplier to home in on the need for rural fiber solutions. In September, Corning and Nokia teamed up to offer a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) kit for rural operators that can cover 1,000 homes at a clip.

Corning has also been working to step up its fiber production capacity. In August, it announced plans to open a new fiber cable plant in Arizona with backing from AT&T and a month later brought a new fiber manufacturing facility in Poland online.

Fellow fiber manufacturer Belden opened a new fiber plant in Kochi, India last year to increase its own capacity, while Sterlite Technologies did the same in South Carolina in 2021.