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ICT Visionary Q&A With Kevin Morgan, Chief Marketing Officer, Clearfield

June 1, 2024
Kevin addresses supply chain and workforce challenges, network evolution, fixed wireless access, and FTTP.

1. Topic: FWA & FTTP

ISE: Share your perspective about the interplay between these two technologies in BSPs efforts to deliver gigabit speeds to their hard-to-reach customers?

All “over-the-air” wireless technologies have one common goal—take the signal from the air to a fiber network as quickly as possible.  Both FWA and FTTP leverage the benefits of fiber. FTTP may not be economically viable in all cases—especially the most remote situations. Even though FWA falls short of an all-fiber network, fiber is extended further from the core towards the consumer. Only in the last few miles does the signal convert to frequencies through the air. FWA can provide a steppingstone to reaching a full-fiber network in the interim.  Both technologies satisfy the needs of bandwidth hungry consumers. That’s why Clearfield focuses on tools that aid fiber deployments to reduce time of deployment, reduce skilled labor requirements, and provide the lowest total cost of ownership. We accomplish this with modular products that scale to meet the needs of very small up to very large subscribers so that even hard-to-reach customers get the benefits of all-fiber networks.

2. Topic: Worst of Two Evils 

ISE: Which is more difficult to handle: supply chain challenges or workforce talent challenges? Why?

Having gone through several boom-and-bust cycles throughout my career, I would say both challenges, if unmet, are equally difficult to cope with in business. After the pandemic, Clearfield aggressively built out production capacity to meet the anticipated demand coming from a market starved for fiber-based services. Our supply chains were stretched much like the rest of the industry, but we planned better than most as we built a supply chain of component suppliers. Despite supply chain challenges, we experienced phenomenal annual revenue growth of 50% in FY21 followed by 94% growth in FY22. Along with this growth came the challenge of building a workforce in a short time that could handle the opportunity in front of us. Clearfield met the challenge of both supply chain and workforce by being in tune with our customer base, which allowed us to anticipate our company needs in time to deliver critical results. A key enabler of Clearfield’s growth is the way we design our products. From the very beginning of the product design life cycle, we strive to build-in a modular, building block approach which allows our customers (and our company) to scale quickly.

3. Topic: The Elephant in the Room

ISE: What is the industry NOT addressing that it should related to network evolution and broadband for all?

Much more work needs to be done in building use cases and proof-of-concepts for Edge Compute to enable artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications. This fiber capacity can break down silos and allow cooperation among multiple sectors including Transportation (edge compute for autonomous vehicles), Energy (EV charging stations with fiber connections to the cloud) and Communications (FTTP).