However, there is significant and increasing divergence between those who have largely borne the costs of developing the standard-essential technologies and those who benefit most financially from exploiting them. Whereas most of the developers of the standard-essential technology employed by all implementers used to be vertically integrated with mobile phone manufacturing, those companies including Qualcomm (2000), Alcatel (2005), Siemens (2005), Motorola (2012), Ericsson (2011) and Nokia (2014) have sold off their handset businesses. The sellers, including those that have merged, have continued with sales of network equipment or chips and patent licensing. Handset brand names Motorola and Alcatel have lived on under licensing arrangements with Lenovo and TCL, respectively.
Handset OEM market shares have therefore changed dramatically.And many new entrants have appeared.Meanwhile, the mobile devices market has expanded enormously along with demand growth for data services. These are the largest money makers in the mobile ecosystem, while use of OTT services including Facebook, YouTube and Netflix has surged on mobile devices, and as .
Cellular SEP licensing revenues at no more than around $20 billion are modest in comparison to and are being significantly outpaced by growth in other ecosystem revenues and costs. There are around $1 trillion dollars in operator service revenues. Total handset revenues have increased from $378 billion in 2013, to $439 billion in 2015, according to IDC.The five leading mobile SEP licensors that contributed around half the patents declared essential to 3GPP standards collectively generated approximately $11 billion per annum in licensing fees between 2013 and 2015. This accounts for more than half . Licensing fees have declined slightly as a percentage of handset revenues.
Despite the stellar financial performance of the leading device OEMs and OTT players, there is mounting pressure to change consensus-based and established SEP-licensing practices, including by government intervention, which would further undermine the ability of cellular technology vendors to make an adequate return on their standard-essential technology investments through licensing. Measures such as making injunctions more difficult to obtain, enforcing licensing or calculating royalties at the chip level, as and as already implemented in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers are all undermining SEP technology developers. Some antitrust authorities, including
R&D investments and contributions to SSOs will be significantly reduced by measures to weaken SEP licensing. For example, proprietary and 3GPP-based technologies are vying with those based on IEEE standards for short-range communications in emerging next-generation IoT and automotive vehicle-to-x applications. Technology developers will shy away from participating in standard setting or investing at all where they cannot make sufficient returns on their investments.
The system of Fair Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory licensing in standard setting has worked extremely well with phenomenal innovation, extensive new market entry and significantly improving quality adjusted prices. There is no evidence of harm to competition or consumers. In the absence of that there is no basis to undermine the position of licensors in FRAND licensing, and particularly no justification for government agency interventions to force such change.
I originally published this article, here, in cellular industry trade publication RCR Wireless on November 16, 2016.