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CenturyLink Adds 4.7 Million Miles of Fiber PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 31 July 2019 09:52

As customer demand for extreme high-capacity, low-latency data transport continues to grow, CenturyLink is utilizing its global multi-conduit infrastructure to expand the company's intercity network by 4.7 million miles of fiber, making it the largest ultra-low-loss fiber network in North America.

The first phase of this overbuild fiber network, completed in June, connects more than 50 major cities throughout the U.S. and represents another powerful asset in CenturyLink's vast global fiber-optic network, which includes a purpose-built long-haul network and dense metro networks designed to stay ahead of the growing data demand. The second phase of this expansion will include areas in Europe and will be completed by early 2021. The expanded infrastructure, using the latest optical innovations from Corning Incorporated (NYSE: GLW), will enhance performance levels across CenturyLink's network, benefiting businesses, government agencies and providers seeking fiber to build their own secure, scalable networks for demanding next-generation applications. The investments in the first phase of this project are included in the full year 2019 capital expenditure outlook announced on CenturyLink's fourth quarter 2018 earnings call.

This project uses Corning's SMF-28® ULL fiber and SMF-28® Ultra fiber in a hybrid Corning® SST-UltraRibbon™ cable. With a silica core design, SMF-28 ULL fiber offers the lowest loss of any terrestrial-grade optical fiber and will provide the CenturyLink network with a boost in optical signal-to-noise ratio (OSNR) which can extend optical reach at very high data rates. The added capacity will further improve the scalability of the network to meet the high bandwidth demands of emerging technologies and applications such as 5G, augmented reality, high-definition video streaming and the Internet of Things.

"A next-generation network requires next-generation optical infrastructure, and we believe Corning's fiber and cable innovations will enable CenturyLink and its customers to unlock the opportunities presented by the Internet of Things and other transformative technologies," said Dr. Bernhard Deutsch, vice president and general manager, Corning Optical Fiber and Cable. "With the expanded optical reach and capacity provided by our ultra-low-loss fiber, CenturyLink will magnify the capabilities of their expansive, scalable fiber network."

CenturyLink was able to quickly and cost effectively complete the first phase of the project using multi-conduit infrastructure already in place. The company is currently selling routes to large enterprise companies and content providers in the U.S. and will work with customers to add additional routes as needed.

"Our newly built intercity fiber network, created with the latest optical technology, is another example of how our diverse fiber assets differentiate us from other network providers," said Andrew Dugan, CenturyLink chief technology officer. "Our multi-conduit infrastructure has a significant amount of capacity for supporting the growing demand for fiber and will allow us to quickly and cost effectively deploy new fiber technology now and in the future. This uniquely positions CenturyLink to meet the needs of companies seeking highly reliable, low-latency network infrastructure designed to move massive amounts of data."

"As we build this network, our minimum cable sizes 216 fiber counts. That's the minimum. There are some sections of the intercity network where we're building double or even more than that based on the amount of demand that we see in our forecast," Dugan said.

CenturyLink isn't just using more fiber; it is using newer fiber that doesn't lose as much light. The transmission loss in fiber is measured in decibels per kilometer. The loss in the fibers back when most North American intercity fiber networks were built was around 0.23, Dugan said. Now that dB/km number is down to 0.17.

That's "significant in terms of the optical performance of each individual fiber," Dugan said. And "that budget can be used for additional reach... or additional capacity per wavelength."

You can guess why so much fiber is needed, but we'll tell you anyway. The business reason is "cloud data center demand -- it's dark-fiber driven," Dugan said.

"A lot of the big web scalers are building out pretty major data center infrastructure and a lot of the cloud infrastructure," Dugan said. "We're fortunate enough to be the supplier of the fiber for that, and it's really the increased demand for data center connectivity between cities that's driving the dark fiber demand that initiated this."