Fiber optic manufacturer STL is striving to help U.S. providers close the broadband accessibility gap. The company recently launched a new fiber cable plant in South Carolina – its first in the U.S. – to enhance its presence in the national broadband market.
Paul Atkinson, CEO of STL’s Optical Network Business, told Fierce STL now has nearly 150 employees based in the U.S. The new manufacturing plant, which began commercial operations in Q1, intends to “create more specialized jobs in the region covering photonics, materials science and application engineering.”
The North American plant will largely focus on “innovative fiber designs,” such as high capacity ribbonized cables. It will also produce 5G-ready optical solutions, which Atkinson said will have “ultra-high fiber counts in smaller diameters to fulfill the need for more capacity in lesser duct space.”
He added STL is “actively supporting” rural buildouts. Without going into specifics, Atkinson said the vendor is partnering with a “top-rated cable and internet provider serving in Georgia” along with “five top tier ISPs” in Alabama, Georgia and North and South Carolina.
“We are developing innovative solutions to provide cost-effective last-mile connectivity options, especially in areas where deploying traditional fiber may be economically impractical,” he said.
STL is also homing in on the broadband workforce shortage, as Atkinson said it plans to develop optical connectivity products that “simplify deployment, monitoring and maintenance, thereby reducing the requirement for skilled field force.”
Additionally, STL is striving to reduce the carbon footprint of its products, “right from our supply chains to our own manufacturing processes,” Atkinson noted.
In addition to the South Carolina factory, STL operates manufacturing facilities in India to serve the APAC region, two units in Italy for EMEA and a facility in Brazil for the South American market. Atkinson noted STL has customers in 100 countries.
STL isn’t the only fiber vendor ramping up its production capabilities. CommScope in March unveiled it will invest $47 million to open two fiber optic plants in North Carolina. Last fall, network testing company Viavi set up shop in Arizona with a new optical components factory.