OPEN RAN: New set of SEPs, OLD set of Patent Monetization issues?

🗼O-RAN Alliance was founded by a bunch of notable wireless carriers: AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT DOCOMO, and Orange. Open RAN is a transformative standard as it will empower wireless carriers to choose diverse vendors, fostering healthy competition and spurring innovation.

🗼Let’s see how the RAN deployment changes in traditional and OPEN RAN implementations:

🗼Traditional Scenario: In the traditional model, a network operator might procure an end-to-end RAN solution from a single vendor. This closed system often leads to vendor lock-in, limiting flexibility and innovation.

🗼 Open RAN Scenario: With Open RAN, the RAN components, such as radio units, baseband units, and software, are decoupled and standardized. This enables network operators to select components from different vendors, promoting interoperability. 📶 SEP Monetization: The first patent pool for licensing IP around OpenRAN is Alium patent pool. Originally, it was started with a partnership between unified patents and Via LA, but in 2022, Via LA chose to exit the pool.

📶 Monetization Scenarios:
While wireless carriers will have a greater degree of freedom to deploy telecom infrastructure, many of them may not necessarily have deep and strong patent portfolios like traditional SEP players. Here are a few points that only time will tell:
1️⃣. There will be some more SEP players in this specific domain due to V-RAN and 5G coexistence in the OPEN RAN ecosystem. As a result, more licensing/cross-licensing, and litigation can be expected in this space by different kinds of players.

2️⃣  The degree of freedom of choosing multiple vendors for telecom infra shouldn’t come with additional licensing overhead for wireless carriers. In other words, another SEP list knocking the door of wireless carriers for taking up licenses, which anyway was applicable while dealing with traditional RAN based SEPs.

3️⃣ Open RAN standard might take some more time to become mainstream. The adoption likely to be seen is in the US market first, followed by the other economies. However, IP commercialization activities may be witnessed sooner in other economies compared to the USA. The possible reason could be because of the amount of IP investment made by carriers in the USA compared to carriers and players in other economies. Essentially, there may not be too many defense or cross licensing opportunities for other carriers in non-US territories.

4️⃣ Interestingly, Airtel and Reliance Jio both Indian wireless carriers, are also part of the ORAN Alliance, however, only time will tell to what extent the SEPs are owned by them and whether they are actually implemented in the standards.

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