Mobile telecommunications are highly governed by standards to achieve economies of scale. For mobile communications, technical standards are documents that provide specifications primarily about technologies. These are then used to develop products (equipment) enabling such technologies. The standards are published and maintained by Standard Development Organizations (SDOs).

There are a number of SDO and industry forums involved in defining the specifications for telecommunications systems. The standards drive innovation, reduce implementation challenges, and address interoperability between systems and architectures.

Standardization is the second step in the development and evolution of the mobile telecommunications industry. In simpler terms, the standard development organizations such as 3GPP, IEEE, and so on, take the vision of ITU and transform it into standards. Such SDOs have representation from non-manufacturing vendors, original equipment manufacturers, network operators, research institutions, academia, and country specific SDOs; basically, from all the players of the telecom arena. In addition to SDOs, a number of commercially driven forums also exist that promote specific areas or technologies like CDMA Development Group, Small Cell Forum, and so on. The standardization activities are currently run by developed and emerging economies and participation from developing nations is negligible. In recent times, the service provider (operator) community has also significantly reduced its role and now standardization is primarily driven by the vendor/manufacturing community.

One of the main economic goals of telecom manufacturers and non-manufacturing vendors is to pitch their research (contribution) to SDOs, which includes their Intellectual Property Rights. If this contribution becomes part of a standard, then the vendor can expect to get a considerable amount of royalty for years to come. The operators, on the other hand, have a relatively small patent portfolio, thus their goals are not along this line. Their target is to have their current technical challenges and future business requirements incorporated into the standards. To a maximum possible extent, the industry as a whole works to address challenges and requirements in the standards, minimize the risk of current investments, reduce implementation hurdles, and reduce delay in returns on future investments.

The standardization then leads to detailed design and development of the integrated circuits, equipment/products, and devices. In a nutshell, it usually takes two to two-and-a-half years from standardization of a technology to its first launch.

This chapter will cover the following four key topics on standards/standardization:

Standardization processes of some key SDOs,

5G standardization activities,

ITU-T guidelines for establishing SDOs in developing nations, and

Case Study - lack of research and standardization in OIC member states.