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Chip shortage creates 3-6 month wait for Wi-Fi 6

Chip shortage creates 3-6 month wait for Wi-Fi 6

The chip shortage is hitting Wi-Fi 6, the top performing standard for wireless LAN connectivity that is highly in demand, but supply chain issues are slowing its spread.

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Wi-Fi 6 is the most sought-after wireless LAN technology by enterprises, but the global chip shortage is preventing it from getting into the hands of IT pros as quickly as desired, according to the Dell’Oro Group.

The usual amount of lead time required for a purchase of new Wi-Fi equipment is two to four weeks, according to the report’s author, Tam Dell’Oro, the CEO and founder of the group. “Now, we’re looking at between three and six months,” she said.

The worldwide dearth of silicon is to blame. According to Dell’Oro, the biggest enterprise Wi-Fi vendors were the first to feel the pinch eharlier this year. Cisco, Extreme, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise / Aruba reported in their second-quarter results that the shortage was affecting supply, and many more US and European sellers in particular reported similar problems in the third quarter.

This has led the vendors to adopt a triage system to address the needs of enterprise IT customers, Dell’Oro said. Clients with failing networks, or those with particularly outdated hardware, might get pushed to the front of the pack, but the average business on a normal refresh cycle might have to wait in line with everyone else.

“What we’re hearing from all the manufacturers out there is that they’re trying to help the customers who are in dire straits,” she said. “They’re trying to… send the customer enough to put out the fire, and put the rest of the order in the queue.”

Shipping delays caused by shortages have been felt across the computing industry, but Wi-Fi 6 has been particularly hard-hit. Dell’Oro said that the standard is now the default for enterprises making scheduled upgrades, and has been since the early part of 2021, while the Wi-Fi 6E standard that supports more spectrum bands has yet to make much of a dent. “Wi-Fi 6E is just starting to hit the market, and it’s super early days,” she noted.

What’s more, the situation is unlikely to improve soon. 

“If you listen to the financial-earnings conference calls, almost all of the senior executives of the network-equipment manufacturers are all saying that they expect by talking with their components suppliers that the supply constraints are going to continue through the first half of 2022,” Dell’Oro said. “[That could] ease up in the second half of 2022, but they’re not really sure.”


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