Melissa Brinkman’s troubles are threatening to slow down AT&T’s multibillion-dollar rollout of ultrafast 5G wireless technology.
Ms. Brinkman is the chief executive of Custom Alarm, a company that installs and monitors home and commercial security systems, fire detectors and personal emergency alert devices in and around Rochester, Minn.
Those alarm devices were mostly designed to communicate using slower 3G wireless technology. In early 2019, AT&T announced it would phase out 3G wireless service in February 2022, meaning that the devices would no longer have a connection after that date. Ms. Brinkman’s technicians were replacing the older gear, one location at a time, when the pandemic lockdown began in March 2020.
By early this year, Covid-19 concerns had eased and people were more willing to let her workers into their homes. But then chip shortages hit the alarm industry, so replacement equipment became harder to come by.
The Minnesota company’s challenges are shared by many businesses whose products and services depend on wireless technology, from emergency alert pendants and home medical devices to crash-prevention systems in cars and ankle bracelets that monitor felons.