70% of Technical Contributions and 93% of Standards Essential Patent Declarations Focused on RAN Standards, Emphasizing the Need for Innovations in Other Network Areas to Enable Future 5G Commercial Use Cases

ABI Research launches its new Cellular Standards and Intellectual Property Rights research service to strategically recognize active contributors and identify the innovation that will power global networks
19 Apr 2023

The mobile telecoms industry relies heavily on standardization for compatibility and interoperability between networks, devices, countries, and applications. Within The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), multiple companies are competing to influence the standards and capitalize on their leadership in intellectual property. In its new research service, Cellular Standards and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), global technology intelligence firm ABI Research has compiled a thorough and in-depth analysis of 3GPP 5G contribution metrics and 5G Standards Essential Patent (SEP) declarations to act as a first step toward measuring the market influence and technology innovation trend in 5G and mobile networks.

The mobile telecoms industry continues to focus significantly on Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies, which have been the biggest challenge to develop and fundamental to providing high-end user experiences for both consumers and enterprise users. “This is evident in the 3GPP 5G standardization process, where approximately 70% of technical contributions and numerous discussions center around specifications produced by radio network-related working groups. Furthermore, RAN technologies also dominate the 5G SEPs, with 93% of all 5G SEP declarations targeting RAN WG TS. This means the industry continues to bank on RAN innovation as a dominating foundation to monetize their IPR across all cellular generations. 5G is no exception,” explains Gu Zhang, Cellular Standards & IPR Principal Analyst at ABI Research. “This highlights the critical importance of RAN technologies and their impact on the mobile communication industry but also outlines the one-sided development path 3GPP has been following so far. Therefore, it’s not a shock that the mobile industry cannot move past consumer-oriented business models and has not found success in enterprise use cases.”

Although RAN is crucial for mobile communications, commercializing 5G technology requires significant development beyond RAN. Many new concepts, including end-to-end network orchestration, network slicing, network automation, enterprise applications, advanced positioning, and service-oriented architecture, rely on advanced concepts that the RAN does not necessarily drive. However, the proportion of technical contributions to other parts of the network (i.e., Non-RAN) working groups has improved significantly from 26% to 42% during the development of 5G releases from Releases 15 to today, while Release 18 work is still ongoing. This development could indicate that monetization of next-generation SEPs could be more distributed across RAN and other parts of the network, with a broader set of companies becoming more prevalent as standardization continues.

“Our new Cellular Standards & IPR research service identifies and analyzes the industry players actively influencing the development of cellular technologies. It provides actional insight into contributions to the 3GPP standards and 5G SEPs across multiple organizations, technical specifications, and regions,” says Dimitris Mavrakis, Sr. Research Director, Cellular Standards & IPR at ABI Research. Although counting contributions is not enough to recognize leaders in influencing 3GPP standardization processes, it is still a key element in identifying the active contributors to these standards as a first step of identifying innovation. Future work in this area will provide more visibility into quality aspects, but our current work indicates who the active companies are in both 3GPP and the IPR landscape.”

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