Open standards have worked extremely well for the development of cellular connectivity. We have progressed very quickly from the introduction of 2G in 1991 to the introduction of the first stages of 5G in 2019. Over this period, the performance of cellular connectivity has dramatically improved, by more than several orders of magnitude, while costs have plummeted on a similar scale. It is an impressive global success story and one that relied on the FRAND licensing model to attract the huge and sustained investments needed to develop the successive generations of mobile technology.
The advent of 5G brings cellular connectivity to a new level. The advance from 4G to 5G includes the expected increases in performance through speed, lower latency, and more. This shift will also generate an increase in connection density and diversity, which is the number and different types of connected devices that can be supported by the network. While 4G typically supported smartphone communications, 5G aims to be the basic connectivity infrastructure of our digital future: the basis of smart homes, cities, and factories. It will be used to manage financial, energy, and transport networks. It will be the communications infrastructure for creating public safety networks for police, fire, and rescue, and it will support medical care.
The current FRAND licensing model is simple. A direct licence, at a single level in the supply chain, provides royalties to technology developers while enabling effective access to all suppliers in a supply chain for a given product. This means that only one player in a supply chain needs to negotiate a licence. Everyone else in the supply chain gets access to the technology without the need to hire the lawyers and experts necessary to negotiate a licence. The efficiency of this model is self-evident. There is a reason the FRAND approach has evolved over many years to be the gold standard for the efficient development and diffusion of cutting-edge technologies. The benefits that this simple and efficient FRAND licence approach deliver are important for the realisation of the digital future based on 5G standards supporting many different economic segments. The more complex the FRAND licensing model is made, the less it will be fit for purpose.