A History of Innovation

The corporate culture of OFS today is rooted in the historic achievements of AT&T, Bell Labs and Lucent Technologies. For 12 decades, brilliant inventors and engineers from these companies poured their creativity and ingenuity into the OFS legacy.

The history of OFS Labs dates back to the earliest days of optical fiber communication and, through its corporate heritage, to the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell. Starting with the development of MCVD (modified chemical vapor deposition), the entire technology for preform fabrication, fiber draw and fiber design and characterization was developed within the Bell Labs research group and moved into manufacturing in Norcross, Georgia, U.S.A. The origins of optical fiber manufacture - and the very foundation of OFS - can be traced directly back to the group.

Today, OFS Labs is staffed with many former Bell Labs scientists and engineers. The current staff participated directly in many of the exceptional innovations mentioned below - and some served under mentors who pioneered optical fibers decades ago.

When Furukawa acquired OFS from Lucent Technologies, scientists brought more than their Bell Labs legacy to OFS Labs. They also transferred a substantial base of intellectual property running the full gamut of optical technologies. We continue to build on that asset and now hold more than 600 key domestic and foreign patents. Many of these patents have had a substantial impact on the global application of optical technologies.

Lighting the way to optical communications

Discoveries and Innovations from OFS Labs and our corporate ancestors

2010     Development of the first flexible buffer tube ADSS cable for improved handling
2010     Development of the first gel-free ADSS cable (PowerGuide® ShortSpan DT Cable)
2008     First ultra bend-insensitive solid fiber (EZ-Bend® Optical Technology)
2008     First MDU distribution solution (V-Linx™ Spool & Play Solution)
2007     First bend-insensitive medical/surgical fibers
2007     First radial fiber routing (ORBITAL® Fiber Distribution Cabinet)
2006     First bend-optimized zero water peak (ZWP) fiber
2006     Development of first drop ADSS Cable (PowerGuide® TTH Cable)
2005     First low water peak (LWP) nonzero dispersion fibers (NZDF)
2005     Development of first ribbon ADSS Cable (PowerGuide® AccuTube® Cable)
2003     First ultra-low Polarization Mode Dispersion (PMD) fiber
2002     First fully compensated, Raman-ready, long and ultra-long haul fiber
2002     First full-spectrum zero water peak (ZWP) fiber
2002     Single jacket ADSS Cable (PowerGuide® ShortSpan Cable) developed for short-span, light duty applications
2001     First dispersion slope compensation modules
2001     Development of first ocean-matched fibers (UltraWave® Fiber)
2001     First fully-compensated, Raman-ready, long and ultra-long fiber
2000     LaserWave® Fiber: First 10Gbs multimode fiber
1999     TrueWave® SRA Fiber: First low-slope ocean fiber
1999     First demonstration of ultra-dense WDM transmission of 1,022 channels on a single fiber
1998     TrueWave® XL Fiber: First large area NZDF ocean fiber
1998     First optical channel monitor
1998     TrueWave® RS Fiber: First NZDF fiber for C&L bands
1998     AllWave® Fiber: First low zero water peak fiber
1996     DuctSaver®+ Cable: First 24-fiber ribbon cable)
1996     1585 WDM Fiber: First ocean WDM fiber
1995     First LC connector to make connecting optical fiber as easy as plugging in a telephone
1994     1561 dispersion shifted fiber (DSF): First ocean high-speed fiber
1993     First fiber designed for long-haul dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM)
1993     TrueWave® Fiber: First non-zero dispersion fiber (NZDF)
1993     First Raman laser, which overcomes the adverse effects of frequency shifts in individual light streams
1993     First attenuator and filter fibers for optical devices
1992     First commercial Erbium doped fiber
1987     First optical amplifier, initiating the DWDM revolution
1984     First demonstration of laser transmission rates above one gigabit per second
1982     Invention of plasma enhanced MCVD, enabling precise deposit of materials needed in the core of a fiber
1980     Fiber for the first long-haul backbone (Boston-to-Washington, D.C.)
1979     Discovery of optical solutions
1974     Invention of the modified chemical vapor deposition (MCVD) process for fabricating silica optical fibers
1970     Invention of the distributed feedback (DFB) laser
1969     First paper describing integrated optical service with planar waveguides Formed by photolithography
1960     Invention of the Helium-neon laser, the first continuous wave laser
1958     Milestone paper on the principles of amplifying light – leading to the invention of the laser, the first light source powerful enough to transmit information
1940s     Development of radar and microwave absorption spectroscopy
1930s     Development of theories and components for millimeter waveguide transmission

OFS History

The cultural heritage of OFS today is rooted in the historic achievements of Western Electric, AT&T, Bell Labs and Lucent Technologies. For 12 decades, brilliant inventors and engineers from these companies poured their creativity and ingenuity into the OFS legacy.

The story begins in 1880

After inventing the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell built what he considered his greatest invention - the photophone. Patented in 1889, the world's first optical transmission system could carry voices over short distances using sunlight and a crude assortment of mirrors and electric gadgetry.

However, the corporation Bell co-founded - the Bell Telephone Company - remained focused on commercializing the telephone. Although Albert Einstein foresaw laser technology in 1917, the field of optical communications languished for decades.

How can light turn corners?

During the 1950s, scientists around the globe were closing in on the mysteries of lightwave communications - a technology with a stunning array of applications still emerging today. Two problems bedeviled them: How to get lightwaves to travel around corners, and how to create a reliable transmission path immune to adverse weather conditions.

At Bell Labs, engineers knew that transparent rods of glass or plastic could be stretched into long, flexible optical fibers. These "waveguides" could solve the weather interference and line-of-sight problems. The real challenge, though, was to design a waveguide system that could carry lightwaves as economically as copper transmits electrons.

A leap forward to lasers

A major breakthrough occurred in 1958, when two researchers associated with Bell Labs published a paper on the principles of amplifying light. Even before their patent was issued in 1960, the paper triggered a gold rush of innovations related to the laser, the first light source powerful enough to transmit information. Looking back at that era, Scientific American noted, "Patent piled on patent [as] Bell Labs and others churned out a stream of innovations that continues unabated today."

Introducing optical fiber to the marketplace

AT&T, Bell Labs and Lucent didn't stop at the patent office - they pioneered the application of optical fiber technology to real-world situations. A few examples of these milestones:

1977:     Field testing of the first commercial use of optical fiber in a Chicago telephone system
1980:     Construction of “the Northeast Corridor,” a Bell-designed lightwave route from Boston to Washington, D.C.
1987:     Manufacture of fiber for the first trans-Atlantic optical fiber cable
1988:     Manufacture of fiber for the first trans-Pacific optical fiber cable
1999:     Demonstration of ultra-dense WDM transmission of 1,022 channels on a single fiber

OFS takes the helm

Following in the steps of our corporate predecessors, OFS and OFS Labs will continue to shape the future of optical communications and optical fiber technology. We don't know what the next 120 years will bring, but we know this: We'll still be making waves.

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