The China Communications Standards Association (CCSA) is one of the 3GPP’s seven organizational partners. By October 2021, 3GPP had 764 individual members from 45 countries and regions. The membership is open to all the members of any of 3GPP’s seven organizational partners; with 185 members (joined via CCSA or ETSI), China has the highest number of members, followed by the US and Germany (Figure 1).
Figure 1. 3GPP membership by country (as of October 2021)
Participation as Chairman and Vice-Chairman of 3GPP TSG and WG
Entities from China rank 1st in terms of the total number of leadership positions (chair and vice-chair) held within 3GPP Technical Specification Groups (TSGs) and Working Groups (WGs) (20 positions), followed by the United States (12) and South Korea (7).
In recent years, the proportion of China’s 3GPP TSG and WG positions has increased steadily: 17% in 2012, 19% in 2017, to 36% in 2021. (Figure 2)
Figure 2. 3GPP TSG and WG chair and vice chair positions (as of October 2021)
In terms of companies holding leadership positions in 3GPP TSGs and WGs, the most active ones are Samsung (7), Huawei (6), China Mobile (4), Ericsson (4) and Qualcomm (4).
5G standard contribution
Huawei is 3GPP’s largest contributor to 5G standard submissions and approvals, followed by Ericsson, Nokia and Qualcomm. Combined, these four companies have contributed more than 10,000 standards to 3GPP, among which more than 2,000 were approved. Data shows that ZTE is also one of the most active players. (Figure.3)
Figure 3 Contribution of individual members to 3GPP 5G standards (as of October 2021)
Huawei also ranks 1st in terms of the number of standards submitted for 3GPP 5G security: 385 in 2019 and 253 in 2020, according to Huawei Data.
In addition, Huawei also has the leading position in 5G standard essential patents (SEPs). Statistics show that the telecom giant has applied for the largest number of 5G SEPs, followed by Samsung, ZTE, LG, Nokia, Ericsson and Qualcomm.
Huawei is often considered as the leader in 3GPP’s contributions to 5G patents and 5G standardization. Yet, some researchers argue that China’s influence should not be overestimated; instead, Huawei’s contribution to 5G standard-setting should be seen as part of the company’s business strategy to expand market share in the technology, and the number of SEPs held is not an accurate measure of patent or technological value. In fact, according to figures on patent impact, Ericsson leads in 5G patent claims, followed by Samsung, Qualcomm and Nokia; Huawei only ranks 5th.