Huawei licenses 5G patents to rival as U.S. sanctions bite

An image of a woman holding a mobile phone in front of the Huawei logo displayed on a computer screen. Canada announced on Thursday that it plans to ban the use of Chinese Huawei Technologies and ZTE 5G technologies to protect national security, joining the rest of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network.

Artur Widak | Nurfoto | Getty Images

Chinese tech giant Huawei said on Friday it will license its 5G technology to rival phone maker Oppo as it seeks to unlock a new revenue stream after its smartphone business was crushed by US sanctions.

Huawei and Oppo, the world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker, have signed a “global patent cross-licensing agreement, covering the essential patents of the mobile standard, including 5G.”

Huawei has a massive portfolio of over 100,000 patents worldwide. It is one of the leading patent holders in 5G technology, which is the next-generation ultra-fast mobile internet that is seen as key to underpinning future industries such as artificial intelligence and self-driving cars.

When a new generation of mobile technology is being developed, it is necessary to create so-called global standards. These are protocols, technical specifications and design that allow interoperability between 5G networks worldwide and allow smartphones to communicate with these networks.

The bodies of the sector are in charge of creating them and companies like Huawei will contribute to their creation. These companies develop technologies that they then patent. Patents, which are fundamental to 4G or 5G standards, will be considered a “standard essential patent” or SEP.

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Huawei has not been aggressive in monetizing these patents historically compared to some of its rivals such as Nokia and Ericsson.

However, in 2019, the US USA used a number of measures, including an export blacklist, to cut off Huawei from critical semiconductors it needed for its smartphones and some other products. This crushed the company’s smartphone business, which was number one in the world at the time.

Last year, the Chinese tech giant indicated that it would start selling its technology to other companies through patents.

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The company previously said it expected to earn $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion in revenue from licensing its intellectual property between 2019 and 2021. Huawei said it met its intellectual property revenue expectations for 2021, but did not provide a figure.

5G has become a contentious part of the broader US-China technology battle. Both nations see it as a critical technology. But the United States has expressed concern that Huawei poses a national security threat and has pressed other nations to ban the Chinese company from its 5G infrastructure. Huawei has repeatedly denied that it poses a threat to national security.


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