Recently, Huawei filed damage suits against Samsung Electronics in the United States and China, claiming that Samsung Electronics infringed on 11 LTE standard patents. Experts point out this shows China’s confidence that it can outperform South Korea in the field of 5G communications.
Huawei, which became the largest company in the global telecom network market in 2012, is planning to invest no less than 800 billion won (US$695 million) in 5G with the Chinese government by 2018. At this year’s Mobile World Congress, it succeeded in demonstrating a 70 Gbps technology with Deutsche Telekom, sending shockwaves through the industry. It is said that Huawei’s ambition will be realized in 2020, when the commercialization of 5G services is to start on a global level.
According to the Korea Intellectual Property Strategy Institute, the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning and the Korean Intellectual Property Office, South Korea applied for a total of 2,507 5G patents until July last year in the United States, Japan, Europe and itself. Although the number is the second-largest in the world, its patent competitiveness reflecting international patent citation is much weaker than what the number implies. Besides, the number itself is equivalent to only 68% of that of the U.S.
On the list of global leading patent-holding companies, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and the Electronics & Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) rank second, third and fourth, respectively. However, not a single South Korean telecom network company smaller in size than them is found on the list.
Furthermore, most of their patents are terminal-related ones for fast inter-beam handover, mobile holographic display, etc. South Korea accounts for 35% and 23% of 5G handover and display patents, ranking first in both, but the number of its patent applications in wireless backhaul, the core of 5G networks, is close to zero as it has failed to overcome the technological barrier of Qualcomm, which takes up 31% of the field.
In the meantime, foreign companies such as Nokia and Ericsson are making use of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as their test beds in a bid to get ready for competition with China. Under the circumstances, criticism is rising over the South Korean government’s failure to provide more opportunities for South Korean companies.