Media interest in 5G patents
The first revision of the standard specifications defining the technology for standalone 5G was approved in June 2018, and since then the industry has been on a sprint to commercialize 5G. This has sparked a growing interest from media and others in learning about the future patent landscape for 5G and, in particular, around who owns the most significant 5G patent portfolios in the industry.
However, it is impossible to canvass the actual 5G patent landscape at this point in time as a substantial portion of patent applications recently filed during 5G development are not yet granted, and many applications related to 5G are not yet publicly available for analysis. A comprehensive patent-by-patent analysis for portfolio evaluation purposes therefore can only be done when the main portion of the patents that are potentially essential to 5G have been granted, which we expect will be several years from now.
Analyzing 3GPP impact
An alternative approach is to analyze how much industry participants have contributed to the 5G standard so far. This approach builds on the plausible assumption that those companies with the most significant impact on the 5G standard will have the strongest 5G patent portfolios going forward.
The development of the 5G standard is being done in 3GPP, a partnership of standards development organizations from around the world, and this data is publicly available and accessible online for anyone to analyze. This is a favorable proxy for analyzing future patent portfolio strength because the data is transparent, objective and gives a full view of all contributors. Anyone can re-do the analysis and arrive at comparable results, which is different from any patent essentiality analysis as the latter requires significant input from technical and legal experts and cannot be easily checked or reproduced.
Thus, 3GPP impact is a good leading indicator of patent portfolio strength and, at this point in time, the best and most reliable method available for estimating future patent portfolio strength.
The lead contributor
In our analysis, we have taken multiple viewpoints of 3GPP impact. From this it is clear that, no matter which viewpoint one takes, Ericsson is the leader in 3GPP and has influenced the technology in 5G over the years more than any other contributor.
For example, in the key 3GPP Working Groups RAN1 and RAN2, Ericsson is the lead contributor with more than 16 percent of all approved papers pertaining to 4G and/or 5G.
In addition, through the end of 2017, Ericsson submitted the most contributions related to 5G in RAN1 and RAN2.
It is also worth noting that Ericsson filed a pioneering 5G patent application already in Q2 2016 which incorporated numerous inventions into a complete architecture for the 5G network standard. This landmark application was the largest patent application ever in cellular communications in terms of the number of inventors (130), and no other company has anything remotely similar to this massive achievement.
Ericsson’s innovations are playing a leading role in the 5G standardization process, and our products and solutions stand ready to help operators enable a fast and agile 5G rollout.