5 February 1999
Geneva — Following the deadline for the submission of patent statements on IMT-2000 RTTs1, both Qualcomm and Ericsson reiterated to the ITU their position in respect of the ITU Patent Policy. Meanwhile, strong support was expressed by the industry at large to pursue the technical preparatory work leading to a single worldwide standard for third generation mobile systems independently from the IPR debate.
Since December, industry members held consultations over what to do next and many have sent clear statements in favour of keeping both aspects of the work separate. Operators, which had been so far generally keeping a distant watch on the process, have now taken a stronger stand in light of the seriousness of the situation for the future of the wireless business. Key operators from around the world met in December 1998 and again in mid-January 1999 to discuss the future of 3G. Following the second meeting which took place in Beijing on 14 and 15 January 1999, fourteen key operators2 sent an open letter to the ITU stating their support of the work of the ITU and of the need for IMT-2000-related IPRs to be granted on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and conditions. Their letter also calls for third generation suppliers and manufacturers to seek out other IPR holders and put licensing or cross-license agreements in place as soon as possible. Industry associations including the Universal Wireless Communications Consortium (UWCC), the CDMA Development Group and the GSM Association, have all indicated that the ITU’s targeted final completion date for IMT-2000 standardization cannot be jeopardized and urged all parties to consider a compromise.
The UMTS IPR Working Group has also proposed what it considers a way forward to address the IPR issues in a generic approach applicable to all IMT-2000 technology. The UMTS IPR Working Group consists of wireless companies currently supported by UMTS IP Association, a non-profit association registered in France. A similar approach has been taken by the GSM Association.
US Golden Bridge Technology (GBT) also formalized an offer aimed at breaking the deadlock on patents for 3G with Wideband-Packet CDMA (WP-CDMA). The three proposals have been submitted to the special IMT-2000 IPR meeting of ITU Task Group 8/1 meeting in Kuala Lumpur taking place tomorrow Saturday, 6 February 1999.
Most players expressed strong support in favour of keeping the standardization of 3G within the ITU and urged regulators and all industry players not to take steps that could derail the multilateral process. These latest developments could provide the basis for global agreement on the standardization process.
The ITU schedule for achieving a single worldwide standard for 3G in the framework of IMT-2000 has a critical date that needs to be maintained to keep the project on target: 31 March 1999 when the key characteristics of the radio interface are to be decided. The deadline of 31 December 1998 for the submission of IPR statements had been voluntarily agreed by ITU Members as part of the procedure for submitting RTT proposals to the ITU to keep the process on schedule. The procedure also provided that when a patent holder references paragraph 2.3 of the ITU IPR patent policy – which both Qualcomm and Ericsson have referenced3 – in respect of a given RTT, no standard (called ITU-R Recommendation) could be established on the basis of that particular RTT. It is now up to the ITU Members to decide whether a pragmatic approach would not better serve the interests of the industry and consumers in light of the circumstances.
The IMT-2000 IPR meeting of ITU Task Group 8/1 meeting has therefore been scheduled to take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, taking advantage of the presence of key RTT proponents and other experts for the meeting of Task Group 8/1 Working Group 5 (2-5 February 1999).
The purpose of this special meeting is to obtain industry advice from ITU members on the best way to proceed with IMT-2000 standardization within the ITU, in view of the current IPR problems associated with category 2.3 of the ITU Patent Policy, taking account of the urgent need by some regions for IMT-2000 standards to be available by the year 2000. The meeting is expected to produce a report for the attention of the Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau, Robert W. Jones, offering advice on how to proceed with IMT-2000 standardization work in Task Group 8/1 during 1999.
The decision on which proposals can be considered in the next phase of the work will need to be made by all ITU members involved in the work of IMT-2000. The next opportunity will be the meeting of Task Group 8/1 scheduled to take place in Fortaleza (Brazil) from 8 to 19 March 1999 whose objective is to decide on the key characteristics for the radio interface in line with the agreed timetable for IMT-2000 standardization.
1 See press release ITU/98-34 [ http://www.itu.int/newsarchive/press/releases/1998/98-34.html ] of 7 December 1998
2 AirTouch Communications, Bell Atlantic Mobile, Bell Mobility, Bell South Cellular Corp., Cable and Wireless, China Telecom, De Te Mobil, DDI Corporation, IDO Corporation, NTT DoCoMo, Sprint PCS, SingTel Mobile, Telia Mobile, Telecom Italia Mobile
3 Qualcomm and Ericsson submitted statements to the effect that they held essential IPRs on a number of IMT-2000 RTT proposals and are not willing to comply with the provisions 2.1 or 2.2 of the ITU Patent policy; for Qualcomm, the proposals on which they claim to hold IPRs are: UTRA, ARIB, W-CDMA, WCDMA/NA, Global CDMA II. For Ericsson, they are cdma2000, Global CDMA I.