This might not come as a surprise to some people living in China, or to those who make a living by following the goings on of the wireless world, but there is a good case for calling Huawei the most innovative outfit in this realm. The company’s Mate series phones are traditionally one of the top technologically based smartphones in the world each year. However, the powerful 5nm chips it designed for this year’s Mate 40 line can no longer be shipped to the company because of a new U.S. export rule. The rule bans foundries like TSMC from shipping cutting-edge chips to Huawei without a license if said chips were produced using American technology.
An industry report cited by the South China Morning Post states that from the beginning of this year through the end of October, Huawei filed 8,607 patent applications related to wireless technology. That put the firm at the top of the pack, well ahead of San Diego, California based chip designer Qualcomm; the latter sought 5,807 patents during the same January to October time period. Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo was third with 5,353 patent applications. Database provider incoPat, headquartered in Beijing, is responsible for the data used to compile the list.
According to incoPat, both China and the U.S. led the way with each making up 32% of the patents filed from January through October. Japan was next with 15% followed by the 7% submitted by South Korea. IncoPat says that the information it uses comes from patent filings available to the public in the field of wireless communications. This includes patents filed to protect inventions related to 5G technology. The report issued by incoPat notes “As a key area of modern communications, wireless communication network technology has always been a very important part in the 5G research and development process. With the new technological competition and new globalisation situation, wireless communication network technology is becoming an important strategic choice for enterprises to face international competition.”
5G is the next generation of wireless connectivity and the countries that control 5G will have an advantage economically. That is why, seeing how innovative Huawei is and not wanting to be left behind, back in June the U.S. Commerce Department amended the entity list ruling that prevents Huawei from working and doing business with U.S. based firms. Now, American tech companies are allowed to work alongside Huawei to help create global 5G standards. The U.S. feared that being left out of the meetings attended by Huawei would hold the U.S. back in terms of the development of 5G.
Huawei is also the leader in helping the 3GPP develop standards for 5G. 3GPP (the 3rd Generation Partnership Project) is a term that covers standards organizations that help create protocols for mobile telecom. After Huawei, Ericsson and Qualcomm provide the most contributions to 3GPP for 5G standards. According to SCMP, this year 3GPP completed its next set of standards for 5G which include possible applications for 5G such as autonomous driving, smart factories, and remote surgery.
Earlier this month, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said that the country has built nearly 700,000 base stations in 2020 topping its original target of 500,000 for the whole year. As the world’s leading provider of networking equipment, Huawei is also an important supplier of 5G base stations. In fact, published reports indicate that Huawei will replace Ericsson this year to become number one in 5G base stations. Ericsson is expected to see its market share decline from 30% last year to 26.5% in 2020. Huawei, on the other hand, should see its 5G base station share rise from 27.5% last year to a leading 28.5% in 2020. That is, along as it can find enough 5nm Kirin 9000 chipsets to power these base stations. As we mentioned earlier in this article, the U.S. is preventing Huawei from receiving cutting-edge chips from TSMC.