*Information has been provided by the NCAB Group.

If you’ve read through the latest Market Watch report provided by the NCAB Group — one of the world’s largest printed circuit board (PCB) producers — you may have seen that the implementation of 5G networks is gathering momentum. Both in China and the rest of the world.

China, in particular, is investing very heavily in this technology, with its Ministry of IT signing off the mandate that four network providers will be tasked with implementing the 5G network. The directive will require at least 100,000 base stations to support the networks in the main urbanised areas within China.

This drive for delivering the 5G network sooner rather than later has influenced handset manufacturers such as Huawei, which is pushing for orders of newer models to be brought forward. 

Implications for electronics manufacturing

For Chinese factories involved in the 5G business, their order books are now looking very busy. And once China is over the peak of it, demand from the rest of the world will grow.

Whilst the push for 5G networks is having an impact on PCB capacity within China, it is now also resulting in material shortages as manufacturers switch production from standard materials to high-performance or high-speed laminates. This change is affecting all major brands, including Shengyi, Iteq and Kingboard.

The shift is driven by the fact that whilst the production times for both laminates are similar, the manufacturers can command a higher price (and, in turn, profit) for high-performance materials. For example, Shengyi could sell a sheet of S7136H 0,5 oz CCL (a high-speed, low-loss material for antennae or base stations) for almost six times as much as it can sell a sheet of S1000H 0,5 oz CCL.

As the demand for standard-performance materials (low to mid-Tg) starts to outweigh supply, NCAB is seeing shortages of these materials. Consequently, lead times could increase depending on the material and factory. NCAB has also been made aware of some materials being subject to price hikes.

What steps are being taken to minimise negative effects?

As a group, NCAB is encouraging factories to achieve a better spread of material purchasing, rather than relying on one particular brand, to minimise potential lead-time impacts.

The group is actively working with its factories and suppliers on multiple levels to minimise the disruption to customers by purchasing materials in advance and holding more material in stock. However, this is proving challenging with current lead times being as follows:  


  • Previous material lead time – 1 week
  • Current material lead time – 3 to 5 weeks


  • Previous material lead time – 1 week
  • Current material lead time – 5 to 6 weeks


  • Previous material lead time – 0.5 weeks
  • Current material lead time – 3 to 5 weeks

Please note: this does not directly affect delivery lead times and is only if NCAB does not have the materials in stock.

To avoid further disruption, NCAB has brought this issue to our attention with the hope of increasing visibility on future demand and lead times on impending orders where possible. This is important to help avoid extended delivery lead times.

EMS is working closely with the NCAB group to maintain an open dialogue and obtain updated forecasts — ensuring our customers’ production needs are fulfilled on time.

If you have any concerns about your project or general questions about material shortages, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.