May 10, 2017
As the protection of innovation, patents are at the core of the wireless (and really every) industry. Who has them and who doesn’t has a lot to do with deciding the winners and losers when companies are making equipment. So when competing wireless OEMs CommScope and Kathrein entered into a long-term global agreement to cross-license portions of their patent portfolios, it stands out as evidence that the wireless industry is feverishly focused on the future breakthroughs on the way to 5G.
Under the agreement, both companies will be able access and implement the other company’s patents and technologies relating to passive base station antennas, DAS and filters.
The agreement was born out of the belief that each company had something to gain from sharing access their patents, according to Ben Cardwell, senior vice president, CommScope Mobility Solutions. In fact, Kathrein is the first and only company that CommScope has licensed to its digital DAS patent portfolio, while CommScope gains access to Kathrein’s passive base station antenna and filter portfolios.
“Kathrein and CommScope are obviously strong competitors in the marketplace — two of the biggest and most innovative. We battle fiercely out there at the same time.” Cardwell said. “We respect each other’s innovations. The reason we would cross license is we both have decades of patents in antennas and filters.”
CommScope and Kathrein decide cross-license their wealth of patented technology innovation in order to focus on future innovation, Cardwell said, instead of spending time designing around each other’s innovations.
“There are enough new problems in mobile networks as they get more and more complex that it is better to spend our time solving the new challenges,” he said.
The cross-licensing agreement is emblematic of an industry effectively hitting the fast-forward button. Cardwell pointed to steep challenges that will come with 5G technology, the speed of change and the need to keep up.
“Mobile networks are evolving faster than they ever have,” he said. “5G represents the biggest challenge for our customers going forward. There is enough future challenges dealing with the complexity of the networks right now and going forward that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
Future antennas must also keep up with increase node densification, a raft of new frequencies in the centimeter and millimeter bands and network functions virtualization. Each node will have more capacity, more frequencies and will be closer to more nodes to keep up with the insatiable demand for data.
“With densification, there are more interference challenges than ever before. Those are problems we solve every day with our DAS and base station filtering products. Cardwell said.