A severe shortage of fiber optic cables will create a major bottleneck for critical communications infrastructure projects around the world.
Fibre prices have risen 70% over the past 18 months or so as demand for internet-based services has increased and countries have moved forward with their own 5G deployments, according to analysis by market intelligence firm Cru Group.
"Given the sudden doubling of deployment costs, there are now questions about whether countries will be able to meet the goals set for infrastructure development and whether this will have an impact on global connectivity," Cru explained.
While the technology itself hasn't caused much of a stir, fiber-optic cables are a foundational component of nearly every major infrastructure project, from high-speed broadband to 5G and the undersea cables that underpin the services of the world's largest tech companies.
Current issues will also affect the development of new data center facilities, hindering expansion plans among VPNs, cloud storage, web hosting companies, and more.
The ongoing shortage can be attributed to a number of different factors, from a sharp rise in demand (8.1% year-on-year growth in consumption) to shortages of key ingredients in the manufacturing process, such as helium and silicon tetrachloride.
The chief executive of Corning, the world's largest maker of fibre-optic cables, told the Financial Times that he had "never seen an inflation crisis like this" and that his company was desperately trying to increase its manufacturing capacity.
In addition to unpredictable price fluctuations, shortages have resulted in significant increases in delivery times. While larger companies with close ties to manufacturers may fare better, smaller companies with less influence have reportedly had to wait up to a year for orders to be filled.
The only silver lining is that industry insiders seem to view the shortage as temporary -- not so much a long-term problem as a crisis -- which should limit the magnitude of the setback.