COVID-19 Crisis and a New Era of Connection | A Timeline of the History of Fiber Optics Technology | Corning

The COVID-19 Crisis And A New Era Of Connection

The COVID-19 Crisis And A New Era Of Connection

In early 2020, COVID-19 shut down entire countries and drove an unprecedented surge in demand for bandwidth. People were told to stay home. Offices closed and work moved to home offices, bedrooms and kitchens. Schools and colleges closed, too, and learning had to happen remotely. Social distancing became the norm.

Life and work moved online. Business meetings and gatherings of friends and family took place via online video. Popular video app Zoom surged from 10 million users to 200 million in a few months. Teachers had to create digital lessons and connect with students only through video. Because we had nowhere to go, we watched more streaming entertainment. Netflix alone added 15 million subscribers during the early months of the COVID-19 crisis.

Bandwidth demand reached extraordinary highs. In the first quarter of 2020, internet use in the U.S. and Canada grew between 40% and 50%. Internet use in Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom rose 50%. And use patterns began changing, too. Much more internet traffic has been moving upstream, from homes to data centers – upstream traffic was up by 30% in the U.S. in March 2020, according to Nokia.

These enormous shifts have pointed to the need for continuously scaling network capacity and making investments in technologies like 5G, fiber to the home, and cloud computing, driving demand for networks based on that same optical fiber technology invented 50 years before. And as so much work, socializing and entertainment has moved online, it is being mediated through displays on TVs, notebooks, tablets, and mobile consumer electronics. Corning’s industry-leading glass solutions are essential components for many of these displays and touch interfaces.

If not for the success of three scientists in a Corning lab in 1970, society’s journey through the COVID-19 pandemic could have looked very different.

The History Of Optical Fiber

Corning Discovers Low-Loss Fiber →

Physicist Charles Kao described how fiber could transmit information in 1966. But it took three Corning scientists trying countless combinations of glass to finally discover a workable low-loss fiber.

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Fiber Gets Real →

By 1978, optical fiber was moving out of the lab and finding its first commercial uses around the world.

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A New Era In Voice Calls →

In the early 1980s, a revolution began in voice phone calls. Key to that was the arrival of fiber optics, which allowed companies to build new high-bandwidth lines that could carry more calls at lower cost.

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The Dot-Com Data Explosion →

The mid-1990s set the table for the internet era to unfold. High-bandwidth fiber networks could carry web pages, email and data across continents and oceans. By the end of the nineties, the internet would be an integral part of people’s lives.

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Mobile Changes Life And Work →

In the late-2000s, the smartphone and cloud freed computing from a place. Now every person could connect to the internet from anywhere. That in turn generated enormous new data traffic, hauled from place to place over fiber networks.

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Cloud Computing And Software As A Service →

As business shifted to the cloud, so did consumers, using social media platforms to not only connect but also to store photos and files. Corning innovations enbled the beginning of a new world of IoT, artifical intelligence, and virtual reality.

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The COVID-19 Crisis And A New Era Of Connection →

As COVID-19 shut down entire countries and moved work and life online, an unprecendeted surge in bandwidth demand made optical fiber more necessary than ever.

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Corning Celebrates 50 Years Of Fiber →

For the last 50 years, optical fiber has transformed the way we connect, and we can’t wait to see what the next 50 years has in store. Watch this video to learn more about this revolutionary innovation.

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