In order to assist domestic enterprises in developing patent portfolios and effectively grasping market opportunities, the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (TIPO) commissioned the Patent Search Center to conduct an industry patent analysis. Their report, entitled "Patent Portfolio Analysis of 5G Small Cells", and completed in 2020, can be accessed by filling out a form at the following link: https://forms.gle/JNQCDfpZR27Hjyqs7.

5th generation mobile communication systems (5G) have numerous advantages such as high bandwidth, high speed, and low latency. However, millimeter wave band, utilized mainly for 5G transmission, requires more cells to solve the problem of insufficient coverage, which is expected to lead to increased demand for small cells. In view of this, this analysis explores patent mining of 5G small cells, and the current status of the global patent portfolio, hoping to alleviate the concerns of relevant domestic manufactures about patent infringement and apprising them of development trends and industrial application needs in various countries including Taiwan, with reference for future research directions.

This report provides a brief overview of the current status of 5G developments in various countries around the world, including the United States, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, China, and Taiwan. It also compiles and analyzes the number of 5G standard-essential patents announced by major global manufacturers. As the results show, there are 91,806 patents and 24,790 patent families (INPADOC) declared identifying as 5G standard-related up to the end of May 2020. Among the foresaid patent families, Huawei owns the largest number of patent families, exceeding the second place Samsung, with about 1,000 patent families, by far. In terms of the number of applications, Qualcomm tops with 14,833 patents. In Taiwan, Qualcomm has filed the most standard-essential patents with a total of 865 applications, followed by Interdigital Madison Patent Holdings, SAS with a total of 445 applications, and OPPO with 240. The top three domestic manufacturers declaring their own 5G standard-essential patents are ASUS, HTC, and MediaTek, with 54, 45 and 11 patents respectively.

In addition to the statistical analysis of standard-essential patents mentioned, this analysis also conducts patent searches for techniques closely related to development trends for small cells, including "Ultra Dense Network (UDN) management", "enterprise-dedicated networks", and "potential features different from communication standards for future development of all-in-one small cells". From a total of 6,190 patents, the report identifies 1,472 patents as targets. Based on the search results, this report provides detailed and comprehensive analyses and charts, including the distribution of patent family applications, the development trend of patents, patent owners, patent life cycles, distribution of major patent offices, and classification codes.

In addition, the report organizes and summarizes the current status of portfolios and key patents of significant owners such as Qualcomm, Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung Electronics.

Regarding future technical development trends that domestic manufacturers may choose to follow, this report proposes the following recommendations as a reference for research directions:

  1. With the massive increase in the deployment of large and small cells for 5G systems, as well as various application scenarios, cells are faced with multiple service rollout time in diverse scenarios. As a result, the importance of Self-organizing Network (SON) systems has increased significantly as they achieve the capability for automatic scheduling and management. Equipped with self-organizing, self-recovering, and self-optimizing function, SON can improve the overall efficiency of telecom systems and offer a technical direction that telecom operators or network operators will favor.
  2. As uncountable amounts of big data flow from node to node in ultra-dense networks comprising large numbers of small cells, unpredictable damages can ariseif individual nodes are compromised and data is released or tampered with. In terms of information protection technology, there is still much room for further development, cooperation, and research for domestic manufacturers of small cells and cyber security service providers alike.
  3. Given that interference could easily arise when large and small cells overlap, the development of anti-interference technology can make the setup time of small cells more flexible while reducing the constraints of cell deployment and reducing setup costs.
  4. While 5G construction and applications progress steadily, wireless broadband networks are developing towards WiFi-6. The coexistence of 5G small cells and WiFi-6 heterogeneous networks is giving rise to noteworthy developments in areas such as traffic splitting, shared spectra, load scheduling, heterogeneous network interference coordination, CoMP multi-point coordination, and QoS for streaming in heterogeneous networks.
  5. The request for differentiation in customizable small cells may highlight the type of flexible deployment at which Taiwan products excel. Examples includesmall cells for low power NB-IoT signals (applicable to smart cities, indoor underground parking lot counting), small cells without instrument interference for special environments (applicable to hospitals), small cells compatible with wireless access points for indoor homes, small cells compatible with wireless access points (AP) and interconnected with optical fibers, small cells for small and medium size outdoor venues, small cells for LTE relays, small cells for WCDMA, small cells for TD-SCDMA, and many others.