China racks up 6G patent filings but foreign firms dominate

China's National Intellectual Property Administration has calculated that of 38,000 6G-related patent applications, more than 13,000 are from China.

Robert Clark, Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

April 29, 2021

3 Min Read
China racks up 6G patent filings but foreign firms dominate

Who's winning the 6G race?

According to the very rudimentary method of counting up patent applications, it's China, accounting for a third of all filings.

A report by China's National Intellectual Property Administration has calculated that of the 38,000 6G-related patent applications lodged worldwide, more than 13,000 are from China.

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Of course raw patent filings say nothing about the value or importance of the technology, especially at this stage. But they are an interesting indicator of early interest and effort.

They also reveal that despite the scale of China's enthusiasm, only one of the top ten applicants is from China. The rest are US, Korean and Japanese companies like NEC, Samsung, Qualcomm and NTT.

Unseen academicals

The sole Chinese representative is not one of the PRC's tech heavyweights but the little-known University of Electronic Science and Technology of China.

The report points out that China's domestic 6G patent applications are also dominated by research institutions, with not a single commercial company in the top ten.

It doesn't offer an explanation, but the most likely reason is these state-backed organizations are racking up patent filings for visibility and prestige in order to receive further funding.

The report also offers a handy breakdown of filings by technology area.

China accounts for about 40% of the 7,737 filings related to terahertz radio tech, with the US in second place with 20%.

China is also the largest contributor in a second category, space-air-ground-ocean communications, representing 31% of filings.

In the area of deterministic network tech, the US is the biggest applicant, accounting for 55% of filings worldwide.

Phone a friend

At a forum this week, Wang Lei, one of the NIPA researchers who prepared the report, said Chinese firms should seek cooperation with Japanese and Korean companies in order to reduce dependence on the US and Europe.

It is a little unusual for Huawei to be so low-profile in a key new technology, although the same could be said for a number of other vendors and operators. It has been promising a 6G white paper, but it has yet to see the light of day.

Want to know more about 6G? Check out our dedicated 6G content channel here on Light Reading.

A report surfaced last week that Huawei has been working with China Aerospace and China Mobile on prepping a satellite for launch in July. Details are sparse, but given the importance of satellite to 6G, this is widely presumed to be a 6G project.

Besides Huawei, the China Academy of Communications Technology, ZTE, handset firm Oppo and the three operators are all working on 6G plans.

China also has a formal national 6G effort underway, led by the Ministry of Science and Technology. Known as the IMT-2030 promotion group, it has 37 universities, research bodies and commercial companies taking part.

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech ( 

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