Products & Markets

Underground excellence

Digitalization is dependent on optical fibers. Europe wants to catch up with other regions when it comes to fast Internet connections. ­Evonik is helping to boost the pace

The future begins underground. The comprehensive introduction of the mobile communications standard 5G will completely change the way we work, travel, and obtain information—in short, it will transform the way we live. It will require a comprehensive, dense network of transceiver towers. However, the most important part of a 5G transceiver tower is hidden underground. Optical fibers are used to handle the exchange of data with the Internet nodes. Optical fibers are considered the best medium for transmitting large amounts of data. The optical fiber network is made of a material from ­Evonik.

Chlorsilanes for optic fiber cables
SIRIDION®, as it’s known, is the brand name for high-purity chlorosilanes. This material is used to produce synthetic quartz glass in a combustion process. Maximum purity is absolutely essential for optical fiber cables. The purer the optical fiber, the higher the information density that the cable can handle. For this purpose, ­Evonik supplies manufacturers of optical fibers with SIRIDION® and takes first place in terms of quality. But why exactly is this so important for digitalization?

Comprehensive 5G networks
It’s because 5G networks transport huge amounts of data: 200 megabits per second. That’s ten times more than the current 4G standard. Moreover, 5G networks have extremely fast reaction times. Autonomous vehicles are a case in point. These vehicles communicate with one another in real time, call up weather and traffic data, and are controlled in such a way that they drive slowly on slippery roads, for example, and always reach networked traffic lights when they are green. To make this possible, Germany, for example, plans to equip all of its highways and major federal roads with a comprehensive 5G network by 2025. Although vehicles communicate with transceiver masts by radio, the data is transmitted over long distances from and to the transceiver masts via optical fibers in order to connect the automobiles to computer centers and Internet nodes. The situation is similar in industry. A digital production process generates huge amounts of data every second. This data is collected and digitally evaluated, although this may happen in a completely different part of the world from where the plant is located. Reliability and speed have top priority here as well.

The European Union's Action Plan

In response, the European Union has created the 5G Action Plan, which it is implementing in the member states in cooperation with private investors. The EU estimates that 5G networks will generate €225 billion in global sales every year by 2025. As a result, ­Evonik expects the demand for SIRIDION® that is produced at its plants in Bitterfeld in Saxony-Anhalt and Rheinfelden in Baden-Württemberg to increase considerably in the years ahead. The Group cooperates primarily with optical fiber producers in Europe, but also with those on other continents. In this way, ­Evonik is supplying the raw material for the digital society of tomorrow.