NCTC warns its operators of vendor delays on modems and other electronic components

According to an EBN report, lead times for MLCCs—a critical modem component—have reached 50 weeks. (Pixabay)

The cable industry appears to be suffering through another parts shortage. The news comes amid global trade uncertainty caused by recent U.S. tariffs on products like steel.

In its newsletter to its operator constituents last week, the National Cable Telecommunications Cooperative (NCTC) warned them to expect price increases as a result of the ongoing shortage of multilayer ceramic chip capacitors (MLCCs), a key modem electronic component.

“NCTC is continuing to track the impact of this issue on our supply chain, and we will communicate price changes and lead time delays as we learn of them,” the email read. “Member operators should be aware that the order delays and price increases can be significant, so place your blanket orders as soon as you possibly can.”

According to trade journal EBN, multilayered ceramic chip capacitors (MLCCs), resistors, semiconductors, graphics cards are just a few of the items that are in short supply, and that are becoming more expensive.

RELATED: Arris and other set-top vendors hurt by rising global DRAM prices

For vendors like Arris, the parts shortage is similar to the demand crises experienced for DRAM earlier this year—with the rise of technologies like IoT, there are simply a lot more industries, like automotive, that are using electronic parts in their products.

According to an April EBN report, lead times for MLCCs—a critical modem component—have reached 50 weeks. And the impact is being felt in related telecom industries like wireless, according to EBN.

The note from NCTC about MLCC shortages appears to already be affecting some U.S. cable operators. For example, an executive for a tier 3 operator in the Midwest, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told FierceCable that his company has been rebuffed by vendors in its effort to buy DOCSIS 3.0 modems.

“Arris and Hitron told us we can't get 24 or 32 modems, with no estimated timeframe,” the executive told Fierce. “Only about 20,000 are available, possibly in August, for the whole country from various vendors.”

An Arris rep responded, "We’re unaware of any widespread shortage of 24/32-channel modems."

Pressed on the NCTC note about "leading vendors" being affected, the rep conceded, "A global tightness in component supply is affecting our industry and others. We’re working closely with our customers and suppliers to carefully manage these changes and to meet our customers’ specific forecasts." 

Looming over the shortages is Donald Trump's burgeoning trade battle with China and other countries. The Trump White House has threatened to put $250 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese imports. Last week, it outlined the first $35 billion of those tariffs, placing them on things like batteries, capacitors and touchscreens.