Ever since the 3GPP alliance was formed, it has accelerated the growth of the telecommunications industry, albeit more regulated. The LTE platform has evolved tremendously over the last few years, bringing forth a time where LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro standards are in near deployment stages across many countries. While LTE-Advanced supports large-scale adoption of 4G networks, its… (Featured image source: https://pixabay.com/p-1695482/?no_redirect)
Ever since the 3GPP alliance was formed, it has accelerated the growth of the telecommunications industry, albeit more regulated. The LTE platform has evolved tremendously over the last few years, bringing forth a time where LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro standards are in near deployment stages across many countries. While LTE-Advanced supports large-scale adoption of 4G networks, its Pro version is all set to make gigabit speeds a reality to bridge the 4G-5G gap.
Over the last few years, several players have enhanced their R&D focus and carved out mammoth portfolios that describe technologies to achieve mind boggling gigabit speeds. This drive to provide supersonic-like internet speed has resulted in a changing 4G-LTE IP landscape, driving the growth of next generation technologies.
The Ericsson Mobility Report 2016 pegs the compound annual growth rate of mobile traffic globally from 2016-2011 at 45%. With the Internet of Things (IoT) 2020 dream phase dawning, virtual reality technology is moving from just visual communication to making things more real. This has enhanced the demand for faster internet speeds that aid video streaming, contributing to the increase in global mobile traffic.
With LTE and LTE-Advanced making a successful foray, operators are set to commercially launch LTE-Advanced Pro this year. The Pro version is expected to include features such as enhanced Carrier Aggregation and full dimension MIMO. In simple words, it means you can access data speeds up to 3Gbps with a latency as low as 2 milliseconds!
iRunway’s latest research report on the 4G-LTE U.S. Patent Landscape – 2016 Update finds that LG Electronics is poised to dominate the 4G data speed spectrum, considering its research in Carrier Aggregation technology. Between 2015 and 2016, LG Electronics earned 656 patent grants for its applications in Carrier Aggregation technology – and these numbers are bound to rise.
Some technologies that are witnessing strong patenting activity in 4G LTE space are shown below:
Late entrants who scaled up quickly
LG Electronics was a late entrant in the 4G-LTE patent race. However, it scaled up quickly to become the third largest patent portfolio owner in the US region in 2012. Another late starter was ZTE which hardly owned around 100 patents till 2008-09. But within the next two years, ZTE doubled the size of its 4G-LTE portfolio soon after the 3GPP Release 8. ZTE recently unveiled the world’s first 5G phone with a download speed of 1Gbps, which may consequently reflect in a shift in its R&D focus on next gen technologies over 4G.
This latest iRunway Research report maps changes in the patent filing trend in 4G-LTE technologies in the U.S. region over the last two years, vis-a-vis trends prior to 2014. For insights, click here.
The race to become a Gigabit major in the LTE space has driven competition to the hilt. The consumer market has been enjoying the high speed teaser by 4G and is eagerly awaiting large scale 5G networks by 2020. Qualcomm and Samsung are already developing 5G capable modems which could prove their keen R&D in 5G frame structures, channel coding and Modulation schemes and multi antenna schemes (Massive MIMO) that will form a key base for 5G technologies.
As per a report by Statista, the USA is expected to have 220 million smartphones, which accounts for about 10% of the total smartphones across the world. This translates to about 63.5% of the US population using a smartphone. The telecommunications industry is leveraging this strong penetration of smartphone technology with Samsung, Huawei and ZTE launching LTE-Advanced Pro compatible smartphones in the market. Samsung has been an active researcher in Carrier Aggregation and MIMO technologies and stands among the top five patent applicants in this space. Huawei’s R&D focus has been directed towards OFDM/OFDMA, Carrier Aggregation and HARQ technologies. While ZTE’s 4G-LTE patent portfolio is half of Huawei’s, it holds more than 150 IP assets in Carrier Aggregation and MIMO technologies. (For more details on the R&D focus of leading companies, refer to iRunway’s research report on 4G-LTE U.S. Patent Landscape – 2016 Update).
Drawing the safety net
The dream of a connected future where there is a constant chatter between vehicles, healthcare through telemedicine, smart homes and more, there is a dire need for stronger security features within the Internet. Amazon’s Echo has been a runaway success – yet there is this constant fear of the device listening to and recording voices in its surroundings. While Echo does allow a user to delete these recordings, security breach is still a risk.
Nokia is an undisputed leader in Security technology patents in 4G LTE. Nearly 30% of its standards essential patents (SEPs) in Security for telecom networks were earned through its acquisition of Alcatel Lucent.
An extended battery life is a bone of contention for most smartphone manufacturers. While chip manufacturers are doing their best to plug this power leakage, telecom providers are increasingly adopting Voice over LTE (VoLTE) for establishing calls rapidly while improving battery life by about 40%. T-Mobile was the first to launch a VoLTE service in 2014. Verizon and AT&T followed suit. Some of the leading IP assets owners in VoLTE domain are Qualcomm, Apple and Samsung. Wireless carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are equally competing with each other on IP space as well for VoLTE Leadership.
The 4G-LTE spectrum has set a high benchmark for the telecommunications industry with a more regularized and quick evolution curve. It is encouraging the proliferation of high-speed internet compatible devices furthering the demand for Internet of Things. Also, the race for IP leadership has witnessed new dimensions, particularly holding a strong standard essential patents (SEPs) portfolio is the need of hour. And Gigabit LTE which is evolving towards cellular IoT and opening the doors for new industries and application, the IP landscape is destined to witness significant changes.