Innovations in Optical Fiber

Our History of Optical Fiber Innovation

Our History of Optical Fiber Innovation

From discovery to transformation, one invention made countless other life-changing innovations possible

On a Friday afternoon in 1970 – a normal August day by all standards – three Corning scientists made a discovery that forever changed the communications landscape. Since the 1960s, scientists around the globe had been looking at ways to replace the copper wire infrastructure used to transfer data and voice. And on that August day, Doctors Donald Keck, Robert Maurer, and Peter Schultz produced a fiber sample measuring between 16 and 17 decibels (dBs) of light loss – lower than the 20 dB attenuation target scientists predicted could enable reliable transmission. The first low-loss optical fiber, it was a bright spot of light that transformed the world. 

More than fifty years have passed, and their invention was only the beginning, for both the industry and for the lives of people across the globe. Optical fiber has ushered in more than five generations of innovation, beginning with voice, next data, then video services, and now emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things and augmented and virtual reality. And at every turn, Corning has been a critical driver.

From the development of the first single-mode fiber and a “Germania-doped silica glass” that transformed voice communication, to a more efficient dispersion-shifted fiber that was critical in providing the bandwidth required in the dot-com explosion of the 1990s, Corning didn’t just respond to the world’s demands. We have driven them.

Today, Corning’s bend-insensitive fibers continue to enable deployments in hard-to-reach and previously inaccessible locations – like Corning’s SMF-28® Contour optical fiber, that combines ITU-T G.657.A2 bend resilience, 9.2-micron mode field diameter, and industry-leading low loss. Our data center innovations have aided the development of hyperscale data centers in handling cloud computing, and our ultra-low attenuation fibers have supported the path to even higher network capacity in global transmissions. Corning invented the extreme-density solutions that provide the connection coverage required to harness the power of 5G and enable technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Our commitment to innovation has driven discovery upon discovery since 1970, and that drive won’t stop now. With the groundbreaking advancements of the last 50+ years as a foundation, there is no limit to our progress in the next 50 and beyond.

A Culture of Fiber Innovation

At Corning, Innovation Never Stops

A Single Strand of Glass

From a Single Strand of Glass

Fifty years ago, a single strand of glass and a bright spot of light set the world on an epic path of continuous innovation. Watch this video to learn more about the invention of low-loss optical fiber and the life-changing technologies it continues to enable.

A Single Strand of Glass

The Evolution of Optical Fiber

Optical fiber goes faster and farther than anyone could have imagined, and it carries more information than we dreamed possible. Today, its capacity and capabilities are virtually unlimited, and the journey to get here has been constant and diligent. Learn more about the evolution of optical fiber and its extraordinary attributes.   

The Journey to 1 Billion

The Journey to 1 Billion

Since its invention in 1970, Corning optical fiber has been deployed in hundreds of thousands of networks across the globe, from long-haul and submarine networks to fiber-to-the-premises networks and data centers. Through our continued innovation and deep customer relationships, a few years ago, we reached the 1 billion kilometer milestone

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