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Thursday, September 29, 2016

New alliance aims to consolidate cellular wireless IoT technology licensing

By Nick Flaherty

ZTE joins Avanci Alliance to accelerate IoT connectivity and industry growth
The crowded world of IoT groups has been joined by a new player - the Avanci Alliance.

Set up by Ericsson, Qualcomm, InterDigital and KPN, and now joined by Chinese technology company ZTE, Avanci is licensing its members patented wireless technology via a single license on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The aim of the Avanci marketplace is to allow faster time-to-market for IoT companies and will drive the adoption of connectivity around the globe and highlights the maturing of the market.  
Avanci will focus its initial licensing efforts on 2G, 3G and 4G cellular technologies for connected cars and smart meters with plans to quickly expand to other IoT product areas.

“The one-stop licensing model of this platform will significantly increase the cost predictability and transparency of IPR licensing to meet the rapidly growing demand of connection service providers,” said Spencer Shen, the CIPO at ZTE. “Avanci will enable IoT manufacturers to conveniently get the world’s most advanced wireless technologies, so they can scale quickly, shift more focus on the marketing of new IoT products, and finally accelerate the development of IoT globally,” he said.

“Since we began in April, we have received an overwhelmingly positive response from both IoT device manufacturers and patent owners to our streamlined licensing solution, and Avanci will quickly add more of these companies to our marketplace in the months ahead,” said Kasim Alfalahi, founder and chief executive officer of Avanci.

ZTE, the only Avanci member from China so far, is known for its future-oriented development efforts. In has a range of 4G, 5G and IoT patents, with over 815 that are part of 4G LTE. It also has nearly one thousand patent applications involving key 5G technologies. An IoT patent report released by consulting firm LexInnova shows that in 2016, ZTE was one of the top three companies. A report from the Intellectual Property Office of the UK shows that ZTE topped the list of IoTpatent holders from 2004-2013.

“The number of companies incorporating connectivity in their business models is rapidly increasing. By having efficient access to essential wireless technology and leveraging the global network, these companies can reduce time to market and reach scale faster,” said Gustav Brismark, Chief Intellectual Property Officer at Ericsson. “Avanci’s licensing platform enables the adoption of our essential wireless technology among IoT device manufacturers, accelerates the development of the Internet of Things and the global uptake of LTE for IoT.”

“At Qualcomm, we have been expanding our wireless technology beyond mobile into new industries in the world of Internet of Things. Our technology solutions are helping IoT providers across market segments – from homes to cars, cities and wearables – redefine what’s possible,” said Alex Rogers, president of Qualcomm Technology Licensing. “We are pleased to share our cellular patented technology through Avanci to streamline essential patent licensing for certain IoT applications and accelerate growth for the IoT industry.”

In the next few years, the number of sensors, appliances and machines connected to the IoT will exceed that of phones to become the biggest category of connected devices. By 2021, nearly 16 billion devices among the 28 billion connected devices globally will be IoT devices, including smart-city devices, smart cars, smart home devices, as well as mobile devices for healthcare and diagnosis.

However, the Fair Standards Alliance (FSA) has called for Avanci to engage across industry to ensure its new licensing platform is a real success.

Fair access to essential patents at fair prices will be the key to ensure people everywhere benefit from the IoT says the FSA. “Avanci’s new licensing platform is a step in the right direction but unfortunately it is not a giant leap forward since it is – for the moment at least – limited to a handful of companies," said Robert Pocknell, FSA Chairman. "There are hundreds of companies that would need to join to create a programme that would benefit both licensors and licensees. Furthermore, when it comes to SEP licensing the devil is in the detail. Avanci has not yet provided details on how it will set its “flat fee” licensing rates. What we must avoid is a licensing system which seeks to charge different prices for using the same technology depending on the use to which it is put, for example a different price for a wireless unit in a car compared to the same wireless unit in a smart meter.”

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