Glass fibre optics to power up 5G

02-07-2019 |   |  By Nnamdi Anyadike

Glass fibre is rightly described as the communication base of the future on account of the ever-increasing amounts of data that will need to be transmitted, following the roll-out of the fifth-generation (5G) wireless standard that is expected in 2020. The roll-out of 5G will impact both the wireless side and the wire-line side of the global network infrastructure. This is despite the huge investment by cloud platforms in artificial intelligence (AI), led by Google, Amazon and Microsoft that has led some observers to conclude that AI’s future lies solely in the cloud.

As Phil Ward, Marketing Director at Opterna Europe, the global connectivity solution provider explained, “Given the enormous volume of information that will need to be digested quickly to create intelligence, cloud computing and fibre-optic networks will have to work hand-in-hand to facilitate AI. Put simply, you can't have advanced 5G wireless without fibre optic lines everywhere.” Fibre optics will be crucial to ultra-fast broadband, 5G, IoT, advanced smart technology as well as other futuristic technologies. Even more important than fast connectivity to access social media, stream music and download media is the role that speed of communication will play in business, government and the economy.

Connected cities

In the very near future, advanced fibre optic networks that offer high-bandwidth connectivity and the cloud will increasingly come together to create the ideal environment for AI to thrive. IoT devices are already scaling up from small scale pilot endeavours to urban projects involving millions as part of a move to create an interconnected global society. “Cities like Barcelona are well on their way. It is one of the most wired locations in the world, with 500km of fibre optic cable laid across the city, acting as backbone for integrated city systems. These include car-park sensors that inform drivers, via a phone app, which spots are vacant, and in-ground sensors that control irrigation in public parks to avoid wasting precious water resources,” said Ward. Key players in the fibre optic market include: CobiNet GmbH; Optoscribe; Sumitomo Electric Industries; Optical Cable Corporation (OCC); OFS Fitel; LLC; Prysmian S.p.A.; and Yangtze Optical Fibre and Cable Joint Stock Limited Company.

CobiNet presents new FttH product line

In June, the Heidelberg, Germany based CobiNet Telecommunication and Data Network Components GmbH, the manufacturer and supplier of interconnection and cabling solutions, launched its new FttH product line at the ‘ANGA COM’ telecommunications fair in Cologne. The products include: an FttH junction box; roller box-pre-assembled system including junction box for quick installation by one person; a splice case OD; and Gf-AB Mini for installation in any multifunction housing. The cable can also be laid directly underground in CobiNet's prefabricated solutions. Christian Meiser, Key Account Manager FTTH at CobiNet explained, “With different modules for every application, the CobiNet FttH solution offers maximum flexibility for the entire process chain, from the installer to the carrier. The CobiNet solutions for FTTH meet the criteria of the Guideline for the funded broadband expansion Germany. This reduces the acquisition costs and the capital requirements for expansion.”

Optoscribe launches multi-core fibre ‘world first’

Also in June, Optoscribe the UK based supplier of 3D glass-based integrated photonics components and Sumitomo Electric Industries, an optical fibre cable and component manufacturing technology supplier, announced that they had teamed up with the University of L’Aquila, Italy, to deploy the world’s first multi-core fibre (MCF) testbed for space-division multiplexed (SDM) communications in a real-field environment. The initiative is part of an experimental research project to help strengthen the telecommunications infrastructure of the city of L’Aquila, following the major earthquake which struck the city in 2009 that decimated much of the urban centre.

Optoscribe’s fan-in/fan-out (FIFO) devices convert between multiple standard single-mode fibres (SMFs) and Sumitomo Electric’s MCFs. The use of MCF can dramatically increase the amount of data transferred across the optical fibre while minimising space. Over 6 kilometres of MCF cable has already been installed. The MCF testbed will be used to host a wide range of R&D activities in the broad field of optical communications, and specifically in the area of SDM transmission over MCFs. Tatsuo Saitoh, Head of Optical Communication Laboratory of Sumitomo Electric, said: “We believe this project will pave the way for realisation of optical communications system using MCF and our future MCF products will solve customers’ challenges for ultra-high capacity communication.”


A number of recent reports point to a growth rate of between 12% and 13% by 2024 in the global fibre optic market. And demand for glass fibre, which compares favourably with plastic in the optical fibre market, can be expected to rise accordingly. The main applications for glass fibre are communication, sensor, and measurement systems due to its advantages over plastic. It is the ideal choice for long-distance, high-speed communication applications and for use in corrosive environments or extreme temperatures.


By Nnamdi Anyadike

I have 30 years experience as a freelance business, economy and industry journalist, concentrating on the oil, gas and renewable energy, telecommunications and IT sectors. I have authored a number of well received in-depth market intelligence reports. And I have also spoken at conferences.

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