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Patent holders take 4G pledge of allegiance

Long Term Evolution love-in

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The owners of the patents underpinning LTE, the fourth generation mobile technology, have agreed to only charge each other "reasonable" licence fees.

The companies involved - Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NEC, NextWave Wireless, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks, and Sony Ericsson - have all agreed to a framework based around fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing, which should prevent the kind of ongoing patent spats which dogged 3G technologies.

But there's no guarantee of that, as Qualcomm is not part of the group and owns several patents in the area as well as having plans to manufacture LTE chips. It's also worth remembering that Nokia and Qualcomm used to have an equally pally relationship, before that broke down in a fit of litigation.

LTE networks are still some way off, though several network operators have stated their intention to deploy the technology - which could, in theory, provide mobile speeds of 320Mb/sec. However, such speeds are unlikely, and LTE is more about flexibility than increasing the burst speed.

The agreement states that royalties for LTE will total less than ten per cent (of the resale price) for handsets and less than $10 for laptops, though with the difference between the two becoming increasingly blurred, the ten per cent is the more important figure.

It's up to the companies involved to decide how that (up to) ten per cent is split between them. Promising to play nice will increase the confidence of the market in LTE, though it will be years before we find out if the framework can hold together once the technology is making real money.®

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