Every single telecom operator in the world is now attempting to transform from telco to techco, to break free from their antiquated, legacy, and stale connectivity business and evolve to sell technology platforms, a considerably more lucrative and promising business. Their success is not guaranteed, and many find it difficult – if not impossible – to unshackle themselves from their history and comfort zone. It all starts with an innovation mindset, and in the telecom domain, global technology intelligence firm ABI Research has devised a way to measure a specific facet of their innovation appetite: measuring their involvement in standards-setting and what patents they hold.
“Telecom operators from China and Japan are currently at the forefront of technology transformation, which shows in their involvement in 3GPP and patent holdings,” says Dimitris Mavrakis, Senior Research Director at ABI Research. “China Mobile, NTT Docomo, and China Telecom have invested time, effort, and capital in both domains, which now translates to significant expertise, knowledge, and recognition in the industry. Although this is not the only metric for innovation, these leading network operators are well suited to transforming their business, technology, and strategic platforms to look to the future.”
The findings of the latest ABI Research report on telecom operator innovation indicate that they consistently contribute to 3GPP work, approximately 8% of the total contribution. Of these telecom operator contributions, 43% originate from China, 29% from Japan, 14% from Europe, and 12% from the United States. Leading operators are China Mobile, NTT Docomo, China Telecom, Orange, Vodafone, and Deutsche Telekom. Their Standards Essential Patent (SEP) holdings are similar, with China Mobile and NTT Docomo leading the market.
Standards contributions and patent holdings are good measures of willingness to innovate and get involved in leading the market. “Telecom operators must get involved and not let other companies lead the direction of the market – especially when geopolitics and semiconductor supply constraints are affecting the market. With 5G Advanced and upcoming 6G, they have the technology to innovate, but they must now take more risks and lead the market,” Mavrakis concludes. ABI Research