Huawei, ZTE join race for Nortel patents

Caroline Gabriel/Rethink Wireless
07 Feb 2011

A large portfolio of patents owned by Nortel could shift the balance again, and Huawei and ZTE have reportedly joined the race to acquire them.

The battle to amass crucial patents in LTE is an east-west tussle to a greater extent than in the past. ZTE and Huawei have claimed to hold 15% of essential IPR between them, and this week Korean state research body ETRI said Korean firms control 19% in LTE and 23% in LTE-Advanced (shared between Samsung, LG and ETRI itself).

The Nortel IP portfolio is the last piece of bankrupt Nortel to come to market. It had been speculated that the Canadian firm might bring the valuable asset out of bankruptcy court and preserve it as a standalone licensing business, but now it seems the shareholders will gain greater value from a sale.

Before the holidays, when the process got underway, Google, Nokia and Apple were said to have thrown their hats in the ring.

Now Wall Street Journal says that Huawei and ZTE are also interested. Ericsson, which has bought the bulk of the remnant businesses of Nortel, is also likely to bid. Most of the patents were excluded from its purchase of Nortel's CDMA, LTE and GSM activities.

The report says there are also some IPR specialists in the hunt. One bidder is a consortium of two licensing companies, Intellectual Ventures and major 3G IPR powerhouse InterDigital, backed by hedge fund Fortress Investment Group. A second group includes another licensing firm, RPX.

According to the WSJ, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter, the 'stalking horse' bid, - the initial offer that sets the reserve price - could be $1 billion. However, some believe the patents will be sold in up to six separate bundles, the most valuable one likely to be focused on LTE.

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