Europe needs a more robust optical fibre supply chain, says Corning chief


The top of the world’s greatest producer of fibre optic cable stated the EU wants a “way more resilient and self-sufficient” provide chain to deal with a good market because the rollout of 5G and fast development in information centres drives hovering demand for the essential materials.

“You don’t actually have a strong provide chain right here in Europe,” stated Wendell Weeks, chief govt of Corning, in an interview with the Monetary Occasions.

“The worldwide provide chain will not be what we thought it was and producers like us have to tackle the duty of manufacturing nearer to our clients.”

On Thursday, the US-based firm opened one of many greatest fibre crops on this planet in Poland, which goals to fulfill 30 per cent of demand in Europe over the approaching yr.

Optical fibre is made from glass as skinny as a human hair. As soon as produced, the fibre is usually despatched to cable producers who wrap it in a plastic coating and protecting tubing to be used in telecoms networks.

European cable producers at present import greater than half of their fibre from Asia and North America.

Demand for the fabric has surged over the previous three years pushed by the rollout of 5G infrastructure, which requires round 100 occasions extra fibre than present networks. In the meantime, tech firms reminiscent of Amazon, Google and Microsoft have pumped billions into increasing their information centre estates, together with laying large worldwide fibre networks below the ocean.

Europe and North America nonetheless lag behind Asia when it comes to the dimensions of fibre rollout. Solely a 3rd of households in Europe at present have a fibre connection, in contrast with greater than 90 per cent in China.

“It’s not a lot that the value is a major problem for our clients. The difficulty primarily is provide,” Weeks stated.

Wendell Weeks stated the EU wants a ‘way more resilient and self-sufficient’ provide chain to deal with a good marketplace for optical fibre. © Anna Moneymaker/Getty Photos

Nonetheless, an govt at Prysmian Group, at present Europe’s largest fibre producer, contested the view that there was a major scarcity within the continent, arguing there was solely a brief tightness out there triggered largely by increased enter prices.

“The fibre provide chain is tight however I don’t see any scarcity,” stated Philippe Vanhille, govt vice-president of telecoms on the Italian group.

Vanhille added that Europe was seen as a “paradise for enterprise”, with the UK, Germany and Italy at present seen as notably engaging markets to promote to as a result of that they had lagged behind European friends in updating their community infrastructure and had been now massively accelerating their fibre rollout.

The value of fibre has decreased precipitously over the previous decade. Nonetheless, it has elevated once more in Europe this yr, pushed partly by shortages of some essential parts, together with helium, octamethyl and silicon metals.

In accordance with trade information supplier Cru Group, costs in Europe have risen to €6.5 per fibre/km from file lows of €3 in January 2021. “Costs in Europe proceed to be supported by tight availability and elevated manufacturing prices,” they wrote in a be aware.

Fibre accounts for between 5 and 20 per cent of the price of constructing a terrestrial community.

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