InterDigital is a 45-year-old company headquartered in Delaware that develops wireless technologies in conjunction with emerging standards. Currently, InterDigital is busy working on technologies for 5G. The company recently demonstrated a new framework to start and stop 5G services across regions.
The world of wireless is defined by standards, said Patrick Van de Wille, InterDigital’s chief communications officer. “The way standards are developed is the standards body takes all the technology solutions and slices them up into hundreds of problems that need to be solved,” he said. “We go to the standards body and propose our solutions.”
InterDigital competes with Qualcomm, Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, and Samsung. These vendors also do technology innovation in conjunction with emerging standards. But their standards work is “subsumed” within other business units, said Van de Wille. “We’re the only company that does this on a standalone basis.”
When a standard is adopted, InterDigital has already been working on technology for that standard for quite a while. It makes money by charging a license fee for the technologies that it developed for that standard.
Recently, InterDigital demonstrated an advanced framework it developed as part of the upcoming 3GPP Release 16 specifications. (Keep in mind that Release 15, which focused on new radio and the core network, is only now seeing live deployments.) The company showed how virtual user terminals, representing mobile phones or other smart devices, could attach to a 5G network, request a brief session with three different 5G services, and then detach again.
Interdigital did this work in conjunction with the Next Generation Mobile Network (NGMN) Alliance, a pre-standards forum that is laying out a number of 5G roadmaps.
Dirk Trossen, senior principal engineer of InterDigital Europe, said the demonstration applied an orchestration template across various regional data centers, and it also created and terminated services instantly. He said the demo was significant in verifying the efficacy of the 3GPP enhanced service-based architecture (eSBA) in combination with the ETSI NFV lifecycle service management system.
“The framework developed as part of Release 16 really pushes the core network forward,” said Trossen. He said European operators such as Deutsche Telekom and BT want their 5G networks to look more like hyperscale networks where “everything runs on vanilla white-box compute and SDN.” Release 16 is focusing a lot on how those networks look, and InterDigital is working ahead to solve the problem of combining control plane design to handle service requests with lifecycle service orchestration (LSO).
Trossen said Release 16 at the moment can use this framework purely for the control plane, but there is “no real data flowing.” However, InterDigital is looking forward to using it to show improvements for the user plane. “We have some trials next year where the service framework is the same but it shows significant improvements on the user plane side,” he said.