AT&T will join other top tech companies – including Samsung, HP, Dell and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) – in a meeting with President Biden Monday regarding the widening effects of the global chipset shortage.
The presence of AT&T is noteworthy considering the operator is one of the nation's three big 5G wireless providers. And there are clear indications that the global chipset shortage has started to wreak havoc with some 5G rollouts.
For example, T-Mobile warned that its 5G fixed wireless Internet service will be "limited by global supply chain constraints at launch." Separately, optical networking company Infinera said the shortages could cost it up to $10 million over the next few months. And Gogo announced it will delay the launch of its planned 5G network from this year to 2022 due to the shortages.
However, a top Verizon executive said recently that the ongoing global chip shortage should not affect the company's efforts to upgrade its 5G network with valuable C-band midband spectrum.
AT&T, for its part, has not publicly complained of any direct effects from the chip shortage. Nonetheless, Bloomberg reported the situation is beginning to affect industries ranging from automobiles to computers to mobile phones. Indeed, the publication reported that GM, Ford and other automakers are hoping to convince the Biden administration to issue rules that would direct chips specifically to automobiles, though Biden officials are reportedly hoping to avoid favoring one industry over the other.
"We appreciate the Biden administration's focus on addressing this urgent challenge and its impact on industries across the economy. The government should ensure that this critical technology is available to all industries, without picking winners and losers. We look forward to working with the administration, the US Congress and industry partners on long-term solutions that address the growing and broad demand for semiconductors in a technology- and industry-neutral fashion," wrote Jason Oxman, CEO of the global tech trade association ITI, in a statement.
Biden has already signed an executive order aimed at creating a more resilient and secure supply chain for critical and essential goods such as chipsets.
But few believe policymakers will be able to have an immediate impact on the situation. After all, increasing the supply of chips requires the expansion of existing facilities or the construction of new facilities. And while companies including Intel, TSMC and Samsung have said they plan to spend billions on the expansion of their US-based chipset manufacturing capabilities, those efforts won't bear fruit until 2024 at the earliest.
In the meantime? "Chips will be more expensive, and that will lead to higher costs for the whole industry," predicted Eric Xu, one of Huawei's rotating bosses, at an analyst summit this week. He suggested that the problem in part can be traced to US sanctions against Huawei and others that have triggered "panic stockpiling" of chips.
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