For some time now, Huawei has been quietly confident that no-one else has the ability to install and deploy 5G technologies without involving Huawei itself.
Now the new figures are out from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). In 2018, Huawei’s had 5,405 PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) applications, which – as Francis Gurry, the director of WIPO observed – is “an all-time record by anyone.” By comparison, the runner-up was Mitsubishi, in Japan, with 2,812.
And the vast majority of Huawei’s patents relate to 5G, to which the company has been devoting world-leading investment in research and development, backed strongly by the Chinese government.
Let me add that Gurry also pointed out that “Asia is now the majority filer of international patent applications via WIPO, which is an important milestone for that economically dynamic region and underscores the historical geographical shift of innovative activity from West to East.” WIPO statistics showed that 50.5 percent of all Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications filed in 2018 came from Asia, with Europe and North America accounting for about a quarter each.
What does all this mean for the future of 5G technologies, which can work more than 100 times faster than current systems. Let me quote the last part of an article from the People’s Daily:
“Our absolute competitive advantage in 5G is also another reason [for the lead in global patent applications],” the Huawei spokesperson said.
The year of 2018 was a key year for 5G development, and Huawei has been concentrating its research efforts on the next generation of wireless technologies since 2009.
The number of patents Huawei filed that were related to 5G also accounted for a large part of all the patent filings by the company, the spokesperson said.
Despite the US-led crackdown on the Chinese company, industry representatives have acknowledged that Huawei is a leading 5G player with the highest count of 5G 3GPP contributions and therefore not easily substitutable.
The New York Times said on Sunday that the US campaign to ban Huawei overseas is stumbling as its major allies resist.
“Huawei is one of the leaders in the 5G space with substantial influence and significant contributions,” Charlie Dai, principal analyst at American consultancy Forrester, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
According to the latest figures intellectual property tracker IPlytics GmbH published in February, Huawei holds 1,529 5G standard essential patents, ahead of Nokia, which holds 1,397. Samsung has 1,296 and Ericsson holds 812, the analyst noted.
“Technically it is possible to find workarounds regarding Huawei’s technology, but it would be a huge waste of money and not beneficial for the whole ecosystem,” he said.
The game, it would seem, is up. If you want 5G and all that it enables, you will have to work with a Chinese company like Huawei. Indeed, the major tech companies in other parts of the world have already realised this. They have ignored the politically-motivated efforts of a small number of former colonisers and already signed up to work with Huawei.