Litigation and Licensing Uptick as DAS Ecosystem Readies for Transformation - UPDATE

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1Q 2018 | IN-5020

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Pace of Litigation Accelerates


Since this Executive Foresight was first penned on the 16th of January, the market and litigation environment has evolved significantly and deserves a quick update.

There are few lawsuits in the world of indoor wireless and distributed antenna systems (DAS), but recently we have noticed some uptick. In May 2014 Corning alleged patent infringement by SOLiD concerning multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) solutions for DAS systems. The court denied Corning’s claim in October 2015. In 2016, Dali Wireless alleged patent infringement by CommScope concerning baseband predistortion linearization for power amplification and software-configurable DAS. Dali Wireless continued such actions in 2016, asserting a claim against Fiplex concerning public safety digital DAS and remote configuration. The result here was that Dali licensed its patents to Fiplex in September 2017.

Early 2018 saw another round of announcements relating to ongoing patent disputes.  On January 11, 2018, CommScope reported that the PTAB (Patent Trial and Appeal Board) declined to review CommScope’s 2006 US Patent number 7,848,747.  Just one week later, on January 18, Dali Wireless reported that the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas rejected CommScope’s proposed construction of claim terms found in Dali’s 2010 US Patent number 9,531,473.

Another case is from CommScope. They alleged patent infringement by Cobham in its intellectual digital DAS system (idDAS), which was deployed at Berlin’s Fan Mile. This claim was made in December 2017, and the case is still active, with the Berlin court’s decision coming in due course.

Collaboration and Merger and Acquisitions Increase


Not every vendor sues for patent infringement. We noted CommScope and Kathrein agreed to a mutual cross-licensing deal in April 2017 concerning base station antennas, DAS, and filters. In February 2017 at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), we saw demonstrations by Altiostar with Dali Wireless for its integration of Altiostar’s virtual radio network controller (vRAN) with Dali’s virtual Fronthaul Solution. Altiostar demonstrated its vRAN integration with Corning’s Optical Network Evolution (ONE) DAS system, and ASOCS demonstrated the integration of its virtualized Base Station (vBS) with Dali’s virtual Fronthaul Solution at MWC17. Finally, in September 2017, Dali Wireless licensed its digital predistortion technology patent to Texas Instruments.

Recent partnerships have been announced by Zinwave and Cheytec Telecommunications in October 2017 and by SOLiD and Cheytec in January 2018. Both partnerships promise to ease and accelerate the implementation of DAS systems for enterprise customers—a segment of indoor wireless which receives little interest from Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).

Two of the most significant acquisitions in the DAS ecosystem have been the purchase of small-cell vendor Airvana by CommScope in September 2015 and Corning’s acquisition of small-cell vendor SpiderCloud Wireless in July 2017. The acquisitions give these companies base station intellectual property (IP) and products and promise to drive the use of DAS with small cells for indoor wireless systems.

Signposts or Symptoms of Transformation


This is not a comprehensive list of activity but serves to illustrate the moves companies are making to position themselves for success in the rapidly transforming indoor wireless market.

There are many technology and industry trends which promise to transform the indoor wireless ecosystem. This includes technology innovation across the licensed and unlicensed spectrum, which will soon unify in-building DAS and small-cell systems for lower cost. These developments will unlock opportunities for new use cases, such as private LTE, quad-play multiple system operators (MSOs), and neutral hosts. Also, the convergence of advanced technologies, including 4G, 5G, Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) LTE, Citizens Broadband Radio System (CBRS), LTE in unlicensed spectrum (also known as MulteFire), and IoT, will merge DAS and small-cell architectures, requiring advances in cloud and virtual radio access networks, multi-access edge computing, and fronthaul. More detail on our indoor wireless outlook can be found in our recent Indoor Wireless Networks Transformative Horizonreport.

We believe that the uptick in patent infringement lawsuits, licensing, cross-licensing, partnerships, and acquisitions are one symptom of the fundamental changes taking place in this ecosystem. DAS and small cell vendors, system integrators, VARs, and building management companies, MNOs, MSOs, and tower and fiber companies will all take advantage of these transformations. Mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships will all increase as companies acquire the skills and IP needed to take advantage of the new opportunities for future growth in the in-building wireless ecosystem.