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. 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.


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

Explore Corning Optical Fiber


Three Visionaries



そのころブリティッシュポストオフィスの担当者がコーニングを訪れ高純度のガラスファイバ光学系を作ることに協力を求めてきました。彼らの設計では伝送損失が20 dB/km 程度のシングルモード型光ファイバ(クラッド径100μm、コア径7.5μm)が必要でした。当時は最も純粋な光学ガラスでもその損失は精々1,000 dB/km程度でした。 20 dB/kmの目標に到達するためにはマウアー博士、ケック博士、シュルツ博士達は1098 倍の改善が必要になることを意味していました。不可能なタスクの様ではありましたが、彼らは実現し、技術のブレークスルーは世界を変える結果となったのです。


2000年にはマウアー博士、ケック博士、シュルツ博士は、彼らの革命的な発明に対してNational Medal of Technology を受賞しました。これは米国の競争力や生活水準を将来にわたって向上することに貢献した米国の最先端の発明者やイノベーターに対して米国大統領により与えられる最高の名誉です。技術革新や発明にたいする姿勢の証として、コーニングの科学者たちはこの権威ある賞を四度受賞しています。



In the early 1970s, an amazing confluence of technological breakthroughs – the semiconductor laser, the microprocessor, and the initial “vision” of a global communications network – fueled the rapid acceptance of optical fiber.

Some view this as the beginning of the “Information Age,” comparing today’s social revolution of “information accessibility” to last century’s industrial revolution, in terms of scope and impact.

Optical fiber-enabled communications networks have evolved over time. In the early 1980s, optical fiber was being installed primarily by telephone companies and the benefits were evident. Optical fiber could carry vast amounts of information and light signals over long distances – many times that of copper. 

By the early 1990s, the fiber revolution was reshaping the way the world communicated. Improved fibers, better electronics, and the advent of optical components meant improved signal quality and greater efficiency. It can be said that the "Information Age" was materializing over optical fiber.

Today, the convergence of telecommunications networks and the access to those networks, through a growing array of devices by more and more people, is acting as the medium through which knowledge, culture, and information are being distributed in a more uniform way.