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Mobile Open-Access and Device Standards

One major factor that has had an impact upon the ability of Asian vendors to address 2G and 3G mobile phone handset markets has been their lack of significant intellectual property (IP) portfolios, according to a recent ABI Research market study.

As a result, they have been subject to average royalty rates far in excess of those paid by their IP-enabled competitors -- such as Nokia, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson.

To avoid repeating their experiences in the 3G market, Asian vendors such as Samsung, Toshiba, Matsushita, Sony, NEC, and Mitsubishi, along with NTT, have captured significant portions of the IP relevant to the 4G technology space.

ABI Research director Stuart Carlaw says, "In terms of patent filing volume relating to core 4G technologies, eight of the top 15 companies are Asian vendors. More important, Samsung, and Matsushita are the most active by far."

ABI also believes that patent holding alone does not necessarily dictate a strong position. This must be coupled with an analysis of the involvement in standards bodies, as this allows companies to steer solutions toward their respective IP.

ABI Research has found that Nokia, Motorola, Ericsson, and Qualcomm will be very influential in this space alongside the likes of Samsung and LG. ABI's new report has found that the IP landscape for 4G technologies looks set to be far more diverse than that in the 3G domain.

This can have one of two effects. It will either foster a higher level of cross-licensing, or it will create a situation where more companies that are demanding royalties have no involvement in standards, nor any intention to manufacture equipment.

Given the recent reports regarding consumer battles with unlocked Apple iPhone devices, wireless sector policymakers and regulators must consider the implications of sustaining an environment where IP and royalty limitations are intentionally used to restrain trade.

Moreover, perhaps these recent events add fuel to the ongoing debate for technology independent spectrum assignment and open-access policies that foster real innovation.

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