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Counting the cost: How chip shortages are affecting telecom companies

Infinera, Apple, National Instruments and Viavi are among the companies that have reported financial troubles due to the ongoing global chipset shortage.

Mike Dano

May 5, 2021

4 Min Read
Counting the cost: How chip shortages are affecting telecom companies

The ongoing global chip shortage is affecting industries ranging from automobiles to video games. And the telecom industry has not been left out.

"I'm a little skittish," AT&T CEO John Stankey said of the shortages. "I mean, we're seeing dynamics that are occurring in the global supply chain where unexpected things are popping up. And it is possible that we could see certain element shortages that start to crop up as everybody is racing to put stuff up on [cell] towers in May. And that's why I want to be a little bit cautious."

Other executives though said they have not yet seen any effects at all.

"We're seeing no supply issues and we're forecasting no supply issues on either network gear or smartphones," said T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert.

Meanwhile, vendors are fighting to make sure they have the supplies they need to continue to meet demand.

"There were shortages of supply and we obviously chased it, and you just basically put more money on the table and you get the necessary products you need," said Viavi CEO Oleg Khaykin, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his comments. "We were able to meet all our customer demands and not miss any of our deliveries."

Apple executives too said they struggled to meet record demand. "We did not have a material supply shortage," said Apple CEO Tim Cook of the company's most recent, blockbuster quarter. Seeking Alpha provided a transcript of his comments. "And so how are we able to do that? You wind up collapsing all of your buffers and offsets. And that happens all the way through the supply chain. And so that enables you to go a bit higher than what we were expecting to sell when we went into the quarter 90 days ago."

However, Apple doesn't believe it can pull the same trick during its current quarter. The company warned it expects to lose between $3 billion and $4 billion due to the shortages in its quarter that ends in June.

Apple isn't alone.

Here are the companies in the telecom industry that reported financial effects from the situation, and exactly what they said about those effects.

Company

What they said

Apple

Expects to lose between $3 billion and $4 billion in revenues in its current quarter.

Ceragon

Expects a "negative impact on the timeliness" of its second quarter deliveries, and a "push of revenues" until it's resolved.

Infinera

Lost $15 million to $20 million in revenues in the first quarter, and expects to lose $20 million to $25 million in the second quarter.

National Instruments

Reported that bookings grew 19% year-over-year, but that revenue grew just 9% over the same period, and blamed the difference on a buildup in its backlog due to the shortages.

Neophotonics

Lost millions of dollars in revenues, but didn't provide a specific figure beyond the range of "low- to mid-single-digits."

Qualcomm

Lost a "very significant number" in revenues, but did not provide specifics.

Samsung

Expects revenue to decrease in the current quarter, but did not provide details.

Source: Company reports, Seeking Alpha

Of course, shortages in components might not ultimately affect a vendor's bottom line. The analysts at Counterpoint Research noted that some companies might decide to pass the hit on down the line.

"Semiconductor shortages have affected the overall supply landscape and increased the lead times of chipset solutions for major vendors. However, we see these vendors looking to diversify their foundry strategy to alleviate chipset shortages in the second half of this year," explained Tarun Pathak, a research director at the firm, in a statement. "These shortages might push specific component prices up by 5-10% and OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] will look to absorb these cost increases by being creative with the bill of materials (BoM) and in some cases might even pass the added costs to the consumers."

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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