Saturday, 30 May 2020

Patent power: Samsung’s route to 5G glory?

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Monday 27 April 20

A new study positions Korea’s Samsung at the top of the 5G patent pile, with more patents granted than competitors Nokia, Ericsson, and Huawei in 2019

When it comes to battle for 5G dominance, these days the main contenders are China’s Huawei and Sweden’s Ericsson, with Finnish Nokia arguably dropping slightly behind the two front-runners in the last year or so. This trio have seemed untouchable when it comes to mobile infrastructure technology for many years, but now Korea’s Samsung is now hot on their heels…

When it comes to battle for 5G dominance, these days the main contenders are China’s Huawei and Sweden’s Ericsson, with Finnish Nokia arguably dropping slightly behind the two front-runners in the last year or so. This trio have seemed untouchable when it comes to mobile infrastructure technology for many years, but now Korea’s Samsung is now hot on their heels, as their current positioning regarding 5G patents may indicate. 
 
Vendors love to boast about their figures when it comes to patents and Samsung is no different. A January study by IPLytics and the Technical University of Berlin shows that Samsung achieved the largest number of granted 5G patents in 2019, with its 1,728 beating out its nearest rivals Nokia (1,584), LG (1,415), and Huawei (1,274). When it comes to granted patents for 2019, Ericsson found itself far behind the pack with only 768.
 
“These figures on 5G patents are the result of our continued and unrelenting commitment to 5G innovation. Based on our leadership in 5G patents, we will continue to advance 5G and spearhead the development of next generation telecommunication technologies that will transform our daily lives in future,” boasted Sunghyun Choi, SVP and head of the Advanced Communications Research Center at Samsung Research.
 
Patenting emerging technologies is, of course, hugely important when it comes to market positioning, with previous experience showing that the most prolific patentors tend to secure a firm hold on the industry.
 
“The past few years have shown that 3G and 4G patent holders have controlled how mobile technologies are used in the smartphone industry and owners of 5G essential patents will likely become technology and market leaders, thus enabling 5G connectivity in various markets,” noted the study.
 
This news is likely to be welcomed in the US, as the country desperately looks for alternatives to China’s Huawei for 5G.
 
However, exactly how meaningful these statistics are is unclear. 5G is still an emerging technology and, as such, new patent applications are commonplace and the assessment process is slow. When it comes to total patents filed, much to the US’ displeasure, Huawei actually pushes Samsung off the top spot (3,147 versus 2,795), with ZTE not far behind with 2,561. 
 
While there is an argument to be made that patents may be easier to file in China, the real take-home message here is that it is still simply too early to judge just who is leading this so-called ‘patent war’. While Samsung will claim a leadership position for now, they still have their work cut out for them if they are to retain their place on the podium in the wake of China’s huge push for 5G dominance.
 
 
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