Will 4G Networks Get Sidetracked by Patent Problems?

adc2-wtag_logo1As the world moves to fourth generation wireless networks, lawyers for chip firms, handset makers and other technology firms are moving into their bargaining positions on patents related to the technology that enables the WiMAX and LTE networks. When deploying an in-depth technology protocol, such as WiAMX and LTE, many firms will own the intellectual property needed to create a network, from the silicon to the handsets. Those IP owners want to get paid, but the more patent holders charge, the more expensive the end devices and network components can become.

Over at Fierce Broadband Wireless, they have a story noting that in-building wireless firm ADC thinks it has a several key patents related to deploying LTE and WiMAX. ADC says it’s willing to license those patents at a “fair and reasonable rate,” which is basically an invite to bring people to the negotiating table. Is ADC trying to be the next Qualcomm, which has aggravated the industry by controlling key patents and charging high royalty rates?

A group of handset makers has banded together to create a patent framework for LTE, but other key players, notably the silicon vendors are absent. ADC adds another player to that mix. Because ADC doesn’t make hardware such as handsets, it doesn’t have an incentive to trade its patents for the use of other patents needed for an LTE device to work. It also isn’t a member of a standards organization, which WOULD limit the royalties ADC could charge. We’ll see if the industry players attempt to deal with ADC or move straight to litigation. The results could mean pricier LTE handsets or even the halt of LTE- and WiMAX-enabled devices, should litigation go poorly.

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