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  • Jatin Singla

5G Standard Essential Patents (SEPs)


Table of Content


What are Standard Essential Patents?

Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) are the patented technologies essential to implement a standard. SEPs play a significant role in telecommunications because various generations such as 3G, 4G, and 5G are standardized, and the corresponding standards need SEPs for their implementation. 5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks, and it is bringing drastic changes in communication and connectivity compared to its previous generations. 5G is impacting every industry by virtually connecting everyone and everything. Intelligent home automation, Self-driving cars, Industrial IoT, Smart traffic management, and Smart healthcare (such as smart clothing) are some of the major industries that the evolution of 5G will highly impact. To adopt global communication, the communication protocols need to be identical, and the connected mobile networks and the devices must have uniformity among them. To ensure this uniformity, standardization is required for various generations and related telecommunication technologies. Since 5G is bringing drastic changes to its previous generations, many new standards need to be defined for 5G. These standards comprise various technologies that some inventors have already patented, and hence, the role of SEPs becomes more crucial in 5G.

Who Defines and Sets 5G Standards?

Standard Setting Organizations (SSOs) such as European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in Europe and Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATSI) in the United States are responsible for defining and setting standards. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is a council of seven SSOs that are shown in Fig. 1. 3GPP develops and designs technical specifications for telecommunication standards. The technical specifications defined by 3GPP are formulated into standards by the SSOs, and SSOs are responsible for setting up Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policies. The standards related to mobile networks generations such as 5G are majorly set up at ETSI, Europe. The patent owners who find any 5G standard to be comprising their patented technology may declare it to the concerned SSO such as ETSI.

Technical specification & general policy


Firstly, the patent owners have to declare their SEPs at the ETSI IPR Online Database where they need to provide information about the patent and the 5G standard which is using that patent. Once a patent has been recognized as SEP by the ETSI, the next step is to finalize a licensing agreement with the IPR owner based on FRAND terms. As 5G is going to be part of many industries, it is very important to license the 5G SEPs on reasonable terms because SEP licensing rates will reflect in various user products such as home automation devices, healthcare devices, and automobiles.

Till January 2022, around 71 companies have made 1458 declarations of 46182 simple patent families for 228 specifications of 3GPP that are related to 5G.

Top 5G SEPs Declaring Companies

(Source: SEP Omnilytics, January 2022)

The above table illustrates the top industrial players of 5G declared SEPs families. Huawei leads the race with a share of 14.5%, followed by Samsung with a share of 11.7%, and Qualcomm with a share of 9.8%.

Top 3GPP Technical Specifications With Most 5G SEPs


3GPP Technical Specification


No. of simple patent families


Specifies the Radio Resource Control (RRC) protocol for the radio interface between User Equipment (UE) and New Generation - Radio Access Network (NG-RAN)



Specifies and establishes the characteristics of the physical layer procedures for control operations in 5G-New Radio (5G-NR)



Describes the physical channels and signals for 5G-NR



Specifies and establishes the characteristics of the physical layer procedures of data channels for 5G-NR



Specifies the coding, multiplexing, and mapping to physical channels for 5G NR



Specifies the NR MAC (Medium Access Control) protocol



Provides an overall description of the NG-RAN and focuses on the radio interface protocol architecture of NR connected to 5G Core (5GC)



Defines the system architecture for the 5G System. The 5G System provides data connectivity and services.



Specifies the NR Radio Link Control (RLC) protocol for the UE-NR radio interface



Provides the description of the Packet Data Convergence Protocol (PDCP)


(Source: SEP Omnilytics, January 2022)

The above table illustrates the top 3GPP specifications of 5G declared SEPs. TS 38 331 which specifies the RRC protocol, leads the race, followed by TS 38 213, which specifies the characteristics of the physical layer procedures of data channels, and TS 38 211, which specifies the coding, multiplexing, and mapping to physical channels for 5G NR.

(Source: SEP Omnilytics, January 2022)

A total of 245,159 SEP applications has been filed worldwide. As shown in figure, the United States leads the race with 45,798 applications followed by WIPO and China with 39,723 and 39,515 applications respectively.


5G is bringing drastic changes in the field of communication and is impacting almost every industry and hence the end-user products. 5G comprises a new set of technologies that need to be standardized, and SEPs are going to play an important role in the standardization of 5G. The SEPs related to 5G should be licensed at appropriate rates as the cost will reflect in the user’s products and services, including basic necessities such as healthcare.



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