FCC asks how chip shortage is impacting communications industry

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked for input as to how the global semiconductor shortage might impact the U.S. communications industry and the agency’s initiatives.

In a Public Notice issued Tuesday, the FCC noted that so far automakers have been hit hardest by shortages and complex supply chain issues, but “reverberations are being reported throughout the U.S. economy as a whole,” including the communications industry.

“The communications sector is one of the fastest growing segments of the semiconductor industry. These tiny pieces of technology are the basic building blocks of modern communications

EN-US;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA'>– including 5G, Wi-Fi, satellites and more,”  the FCC's Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “That is why we are seeking to better understand the current shortage, its consequences for the communications sector and steps we can take to ensure that FCC priorities and initiatives remain on track.”

The notice highlighted recent efforts by other government entities to address the issue, including Congress' passage of the CHIPS for America Act and President Joe Biden’s February 24 Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains.

RELATED: AT&T CEO ‘skittish’ on possible C-band gear supply chain shortages

This week the newly formed Semiconductors in America Coalition sent a letter (PDF) urging congressional leaders to appropriate $50 billion in funding for semiconductor manufacturing incentives and research investments authorized in the CHIPS Act. The coalition is comprised of a broad group of major tech players, including chip makers and major downstream users of semiconductors.

Apple, AT&T and Verizon were among signatories, along with AWS, Microsoft, Google, Broadcom, Qualcomm and numerous others.

Some chip shortage and supply chain effects the FCC is concerned with are increased times from when a semiconductor order is placed to when it’s filled (also called lead time), as well as increased costs.

It’s asking for responses to a range of questions, including whether the shortage has spread to the communications sector and what segments, what factors are impacting the supply, which semiconductor technology nodes in particular have been impacted; how shortages could impact consumers, enterprise system users, private network operators and service providers; what effects there are on remote learning and telehealth; and steps the commission can take to address challenges, among others.  

The deadline for comments is June 10, with reply comments due by June 25.

During AT&T’s first quarter earnings call in April, CEO John Stankey expressed some concern that supply chain shortages could start impacting network elements for C-band gear, saying he was “a little skittish.”

RELATED: SBA not seeing C-band supply chain issues yet

Others in the wireless ecosystem like tower companies SBA Communications and Crown Castle said they hadn’t seen any supply issues as of late April. But they also noted longer lead times, where quarter-to-quarter changes typically don’t have significant impact on financials.

Apple, meanwhile, warned that supply constraints from shortages are expected to result in a $3 billion to $4 billion revenue hit in the iPhone-maker's current quarter.   

LightReading reported telecom industry companies that saw financial impacts from chip shortages including Qualcomm, Samsung, National Instruments, Neophotonics, Ceragon and Infinera.