Who will be the technology leader for 5G? Part one
In June 2018 the long-awaited final 5G standard was published. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) – a collaboration between groups of telecommunications standards associations which also specified UMTS (3G) and LTE (4G) – formally approved the independent 5G New Radio specification. The finalised 5G standard specification is a major step towards the next generation of cellular networks. While some may assume that the R&D work is now complete, to make 5G a reality the technology development has only just begun. Over the coming years, further R&D investment will drive the development of 5G in order to exploit this opportunity for a better connected world, which will likely benefit entire economies and societies. A global 5G network will unify mobile communication in order to connect individuals or devices to everything through the Internet of Things (IoT).
5G to make IoT a reality
The long-term vision is that 5G will empower the invention of thousands of new products and services, increase productivity and allow for new industries to emerge. It is estimated that in 2035 a wide scope of industries – from retail to education, transportation to entertainment, and everything between – could deliver up to $12.3 trillion worth of goods and services powered by 5G innovation. IoT technologies will connect devices, vehicles, buildings and other items with electronics, software or sensors. Embedded 5G technologies will allow machines and cars to exchange information yielding a direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems. The interconnectivity of different systems and the communication across multiple devices relies on a common specification of the 5G standards.
China on the rise
Due to the market potential of 5G, it is worth taking a look at the upcoming tech companies which are leading the 5G standards development.
Table 1 lists the top 20 companies that have submitted technical contributions to the 3GPP 5G standard. For each company, the total number of contributions were divided by the overall total contributions made in order to estimate how much technology each company contributed to the respective standard generation (5G compared to 4G). As shown below, Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson are the top 5G contributors.
Lenovo, MediaTek and China Mobile increased their involvement significantly when comparing 4G to 5G. In comparison, regarding shares, Ericsson, Motorola, Orange and Qualcomm have contributed less to 5G than to 4G. Further, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, MediaTek LG Electronics and China Mobile have the highest approval shares, although it should be taken into account that the status of many 5G contributions are undecided.
Table 1: Top 20 technology contributing companies for 5G technologies
Technology contributing company
Share contributions submitted to 4G
Share contributions submitted to 5G
Increased/ decreased 4G/5G by factor
Share approved contributions submitted to 5G
Another measure used to estimate involvement and investment in standardised technologies is the attendance of engineers at the worldwide organised standard setting meetings. 3GPP organises up to 150 meetings each year at various locations worldwide. Attending these meetings reflects a company’s commitment and investment, as they send highly skilled technical engineers who commit their time to travel and preparation.
Table 2 reveals the share of attendance per persons affiliated to a company. The data shows that Huawei, Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, Qualcomm, Intel, LG Electronics and ZTE send most engineers to 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) meetings. These companies together send more than every second engineer to such meetings, signalling a strong commitment to 5G. In particular, Lenovo, Hisilicon, China Mobile and Intel had a higher level of RAN meeting participation compared to 4G/5G meetings.
Table 2: Top 20 companies attending 5G RAN meetings
Share of engineers attending 5G RAN meetings in the past three years
decreased 4G/5G by factor
New kids on the 5G block
There are a number of new players in 5G in comparison with those active in 4G standardisation. Vico and OPPO – both subsidiaries of Chinese multinational BBK Electronics Corporation – are among the most active new technology contributors for 5G. Further, Chinese communication technology provider Sanechips and famous Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi are fresh faces at the 5G standard table. While China dominates the newcomers, Canadian Sandvine, Australian Telstra and US-based Comcast are also newly active in 5G standard setting. When looking at the 5G RAN meeting attendance in 2017, US-based Charter Communication (also known as Spectrum) and Convida Wireless (the joint venture of InterDigital, Inc and Sony Corporation) also joined 5G development meetings; both companies have actively contributed to 5G development.
5G looks set to change the way that cellular networks connect the world, with big-name corporations and industry-leading markets at the forefront of the technology. Next week’s industry report presents an analysis of the 5G-related patent portfolios (please see “Who will be the technology leader for 5G? Part two”).
This is an Insight article, written by a selected partner as part of IAM's co-published content. Read more on Insight
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