The ongoing global shortage of semiconductor chips is wreaking havoc for millions worldwide. If you’ve tried to buy a brand-new Sony PlayStation 5 and have been frustrated with the constant low-stock warnings from retailers, the problem isn’t simply because a record number of people have suddenly decided to become invested in video games – it’s because of the semiconductor shortage.
Likewise for the Xbox Series X and Series S, a number of prominent electric car companies and graphics cards for high-end gaming PCs. It was even cited as the reason Samsung had to cancel its new Galaxy Note smartphone, originally scheduled to launch in a few months time.
And now, it appears the problem has spread to broadband routers.
Yes, the worldwide semiconductor shortage is reportedly causing huge delays for Wi-Fi routers. The situation could trigger huge delays for new customers signing up to broadband providers – which almost always require a new router to be mailed out and plugged in. Existing customers with faulty or broken kit could also suffer a long wait too.
Factory fires, earthquakes and the disruption caused by the blockage in the Suez Canal in Egypt at the end of last month have all exacerbated the problem.
Zyxel Communications, a Taiwanese company that builds routers – which are re-branded and used by a number of internet providers in the UK, warned Bloomberg that it has already been “very close several times” to running out. Adding that “it could still happen”.
And this isn’t something that will be solved anytime soon. Some analysts have warned that semiconductor shortages could continue until the end of 2021 …or possibly into 2022.
Head of European business for Zyxel Communications, Karsten Gewecke has said: “It’s a snowball effect that we’re pushing in front of us, and the situation since then has just become worse and worse and worse. When I talk to some of the chipset vendors, some of them tell me that they have something like overbooking of 300% of their capacity.”
Some products impacted by the semiconductor shortage, like pricey high-end graphics cards, have doubled – and in some cases, tripled – in price due to the supply problems worldwide. It’s possible that spiralling router costs will force some broadband companies to start hiking their prices, or charging for new customers to get their hands on a new router.
It’s also possible the issues will put the brakes on plans to launch new and improved hardware, like routers that support faster speeds or more connections.
The situation is still in flux, but for those who want to switch broadband suppliers to cut their bills or increase their speeds… this could spell bad news.