Lexington company lands $300 million Verizon contract for 5G network

A Lexington-based energy and fiber optic cable producer is poised to play a major role in Verizon’s development of the next generation of wireless technology, called 5G.

The Prysmian Group North America, which employs 788 people at two South Carolina plants, has been awarded a $300 million contract from Verizon to help the telecommunications company launch its nationwide 5G network.

Prysmian operates two of its 10 North American plants in South Carolina: a fiber optic plant in Lexington and an energy cable plant in Abbeville. The Abbeville plant is home to the state’s tallest building, a 30-story cable manufacturing facility, eclipsing Columbia’s 26-story Capitol Center.

The contract is expected to create a modest 33 jobs, which will land in one of the company’s two telecom domestic plants in Lexington and Claremont, N.C. Those jobs will not be going to the company’s plant in Mexico, said Stephen Szymanski, vice president of Prysmian’s telecom division.

Szymanski told The State that although the industry is not set to ratify 5G until 2020, “Verizon is the world driver and this will spur competition in the U.S. among the other carriers to provide 5G.”

As a result, “we will be positioned as a leader for 5G optical technologies from the get-go.”

Prysmian Group North America is part of the worldwide Prysmian Group, based in Milan, Italy, which has been in business for 140 years. With sales of $8.2 billion in 2016, the company has 21,000 employees across 50 countries and 82 plants.

Among its products are underground and submarine cables and systems for power transmission and distribution; special cables for applications in many different industries; and medium and low voltage cables for construction and infrastructure uses.

For the telecommunications industry, the group manufactures cables and accessories for voice, video and data transmission, offering a range of optical fibers, optical and copper cables and connectivity systems.

Prysmian Group North America’s 10 plants employ more than 2.000 people with revenue of $1.4 billion in 2016.

Verizon Communications — the nation’s largest wireless company — plans to purchase 10.6 million miles of ribbon and loose tube cables to support its U.S. network expansion. If installed in a straight line, that would be enough to circle the Earth about 426 times.

The new platform will speed the deployment of 5G services, while improving 4G LTE and other broadband capacity.

5G, or fifth generation wireless, is evolving, and its technologies are still being defined, according to pcmag.org.

The Lexington plant, built by Pirelli in 1986, became Prysmian in 2005. The Abbeville plant was built in 1964, first as General Cable, then as Pirelli. In 2005, it became Prysmian.

The company has 446 employees at the Lexington plant and 342 at Abbeville. The Lexington plant, located adjacent to I-20 near S.C. 6, hosts the North American headquarters and its large staff of attorneys, executives, and finance and human resources professionals.

Szymanski said the 5G conversion means “we expect to see ongoing developments and positive business friends for another five to 10 years.”

Prysmian North America

$1.4 billion - sales in 2016

2,000 - number of employees

788 - number of employees in South Carolina

10 - number of telecom and energy plants in North America

3 - number of telecom plants.