Skip navigation

Standards: the (overlooked) driving force of the global economy

When we in the telecommunications industry talk about standardization, we’re referring to a process where representatives from industry, academia and government come together to collaboratively develop cutting-edge solutions and technologies.
Copenhagen by night

JUNE 11, 2024. The development of consensus cellular standards – a field in which Ericsson has long played a leading role, from 2G to 5G and beyond – is one of history’s most successful examples of this process, providing enormous benefits to economies and societies globally. Today, the benefits of mobile broadband – including 5G with its faster speeds, ultra-low latency and greater bandwidth – are well understood.

But the benefits of standardization in general are less widely appreciated, which is why I wanted to highlight a few that come top of mind. Here’s how standardization helps drive a global economy that’s better connected, more trustworthy and more conducive to growth and innovation.

Enhancing trust

Technology standards play a significant role in building trust throughout the entire global economy. For consumers, standards ensure interoperability and compatibility, preventing “walled garden” ecosystems where a single company’s products only work with each other. Conformity to international standards reassures consumers that products and services are safe and efficient.

As for businesses, standards boost trust for them too. After all, technical standards are the product of consensus, counting on input from manufacturers, vendors, operators, end users, interest groups and governments. This consensus-led approach makes for a more predictable market and engenders trust between its players. This trust is essential in fostering collaboration, expanding global trade, and limiting excessive red tape. Businesses of all sizes and in every sector stand to benefit.

Facilitating growth

In addition to gains in trustworthiness, standardization also produces a global economy that’s more conducive to international business growth.

In our interconnected global economy, access to international markets can make or break business prospects. For companies – big brands and SMEs alike – to be able to grow, employ more people, modernize their operations, and contribute to the wellbeing of their colleagues and the communities where they operate, they need to expand their global footprint, whether through exports or affiliates.

Standardization enables this global reach by making it possible for companies to sell the same products in a variety of countries, without having to make costly changes in each market they enter. The result is massive repeatability of a product in markets all over the world, creating economies of scale, helping businesses grow and ultimately also lowering the costs for consumers. This is particularly beneficial for new players in the market. Once they’ve adopted technical standards, they can create a scalable and global product offering from the get-go.

Enabling impactful innovation

Finally, alongside enhanced growth, standardization also helps to spur global innovation. One reason comes down to the collaborative nature of standardization. Innovating alone is never as quick as doing so collaboratively. By building focus and cohesion in the emerging stages of technology development, standardization helps inventors strike the right balance between competition and cooperation and offers them a shared platform from which to innovate.

A second reason has to do with compatibility. In any field, compatibility with existing systems, processes and devices is a crucial factor in the success of new innovations. Standards guarantee this compatibility, meaning that successful technologies can proliferate and achieve their potential impact more rapidly.

One area where I see standardization playing a vital role is in the rapid proliferation of innovative technologies aimed at tackling climate change. As the IPCC's latest report makes clear, our civilization must urgently adapt in the face of the climate crisis – time is of the essence. Within the green transition, standardization will be crucial in ensuring the compatibility and scalability of green innovations. Thanks to standards, inventors will be able to get their potential technological solutions out the door and around the world at speed. For consumers, internationally recognized performance standards will allow them to know which innovations they can trust.

The key to a connected world

Working at Ericsson over the years, I’ve seen firsthand the essential role that standardization plays in connecting our world. By coming together around shared standards, telecommunications companies like ours have been able to co-develop an efficient, high-performance global cellular network.

Devices don’t just work together by chance. Imagine two mobile devices produced by two different manufacturers based on opposite sides of the planet – how do we guarantee interoperability between these devices? The answer is standards, to which everyone has access.

Today, these open standards are the bedrock of an interconnected global mobile network that benefits consumers, industry and society as a whole. Looking ahead, the next generation of cellular standards only promises to deliver more exciting opportunities around new digital ecosystems and the Internet of Things (IoT).

In short, while standards can often be overlooked, they do so much good for the global economy. From enabling innovation aimed at tackling humanity’s greatest challenges to ensuring that we have trust in the products and services we rely on every day, standards bring significant benefits for consumers, industry and the planet.

But standardization doesn’t happen overnight. The process relies on inventors investing their time and money into innovation. Therefore, as part of the equation, safeguarding intellectual property rights is an essential factor in protecting the collaborative way we create open, global standards. It’s only by rewarding leading inventors for their work that they’ll be motivated, over a longer period of time, to contribute their best ideas and solutions into the standards of the future.

With this in mind, let’s celebrate the global impact of standards and the brave inventors that make them possible.

Christina Petersson
Chief Intellectual Property Officer