Adtran and Nokia make more kit in America for BEAD

Adtran and Nokia are both shouting about their plans to make more fibre-optic equipment in the US as they seek to capitalise on the country’s BEAD programme.

Adtran announced that it will expand manufacturing at its plant in Huntsville, Alabama, to meet the growing demand for telecoms equipment produced in the domestic market. It said it will invest up to US$5 million and could create as many as 300 jobs in the process.

While that might not seem like a huge sum in the context of the telecoms equipment market, it’s noteworthy because it serves as a further indication of the impact of the ongoing Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) programme, a key tenet of which is the manufacture of kit in the US.

US president Joe Biden made reference to the ‘buy American’ element of the project – and the various other government-backed telecoms programmes that comes under the Internet for All umbrella – in his State of Union address at the start of the year. Subsequently, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), which is administering the BEAD project, confirmed that it expects fibre-optic equipment used by the programme’s participants to be made in America.

Adtran clearly wants a piece of the action, and with $42.45 billion in funding having been allocated to the various states in June it’s easy to see why. As such, it is expanding its US production of optical line termination (OLT) equipment and preparing to onshore the manufacturing of optical network terminals (ONTs), it said.

Not to be outdone, Nokia followed suit with an announcement of its own, declaring itself to be the first telecoms vendor to manufacture fibre broadband optical modules in the US for use via BEAD. It is working with Fabrinet, and said it will produce multi-rate optical modules at Fabrinet’s facility in Santa Clara, California, starting next year.

It too pledged to create new high-tech jobs in the country as a result, although it didn’t go into specifics on that score.

The announcement was the second of its kind in as many weeks from Nokia. The Finnish vendor previously shared plans to use Sanmina’s Corporation’s facility in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to manufacture OLT cards, optical modules, and an outdoor-hardened ONT.

“Many in the industry have said that manufacturing optical modules in the US was impossible. Today, we’re proving it can be done,” said Sandy Motley, President of Fixed Networks at Nokia, in a statement accompanying Wednesday’s announcement.

“Working alongside the Department of Commerce and Fabrinet, we’re excited to add optical modules to the list of technology solutions that will be produced here in the US and become available to programmes like BEAD which are so critical to bridging the digital divide,” Motley said.

The available BEAD funding has been split between the states based on need; now the states have until 1 December to submit their proposals to the NTIA to enable them to access that funding. The states will then be able to allocate it in the form of grants to eligible recipients further down the line. In the meantime, we can likely expect further announcements from equipment manufacturers about their US-based production. Nokia and Adtran will not be the only ones jumping on the ‘buy America’ bandwagon.


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