Gaining influence in standard-setting processes : a discussion of underlying mechanisms in 3G mobile telephony technology development

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköpings universitet

Abstract: The environment in which companies operate is such that standards become increasingly important due to the built-in rigidities resulting from previous technology investments and network externalities. The research question is: How can a market-leading company gain influence on the formation of standards perceived as vital for the company-s continued business? The purpose of the dissertation is to explore, describe, and characterise how such influence may be gained; it thus aims to reveal some of the mechanisms underlying a technology standard-setting process. Market-leading here is interpreted as the company wanting to lead the development of the market by influencing the standards that will prevail in it, thereby aiming to secure market leadership (in measurable terms).The dominant design concept, including technical, commercial, and procedural dimensions, serves as the basis for the theoretical discussion. From the review of literature it is concluded that the dominant design concept marginally addresses the emergence of a dominant design. Therefore the present study takes on a company "inside-out" perspective to examine how underlying mechanisms may be revealed.The empirical data address the third generation (3G) mobile telephony core and access networks or the 3G infrastructure, which can be treated as the core technologies for the new 3G system. The data stem mainly from interviews with individuals involved in the process at Ericsson, the mobile telephony systems developer. One outcome of the research is a case that describes the story of 3G infrastructure standard setting from Ericsson's view.On the basis of empirical data and theoretical framework, four foci are developed and used for analysis of the data. The foci developed are people and their relations, organizations and their relations, technology perception, and influencing others.The point of departure is that the technology dimension is of utmost importance in this type of standard-setting process where a system of core technologies is chosen. After exploring and describing the process from the inside-out perspective, however, the overall finding from the research is that human behaviour plays the central role as individuals constitute the process by advocating and negotiating technology, form the organizations, embody the relations (including various types of network), and influence others in the market. Since people are at the core of standard-setting processes, a truly managerial issue is how to use the right people for the right tasks with proper timing during the process.The findings from the 3G study are also related to the findings made in earlier research in a broader contextual analysis.Critical to managing the standard-setting process is an understanding of where to fit a given standard into the technical hierarchy and the standards hierarchy. The maturity of the industry also needs to be analysed and addressed. It is concluded that each standard-setting process is a mix of de jure and de facto standard-setting mechanisms with "in-between arenas" and that there are a number of sub-processes.A model characterising the roles of people with various functions over time and in a standard-setting process constitutes the main outcome of the research. This model constitutes three different functions (technical, tactical, strategic) and three process stages (research, formal standardisation, informal standardisation) thereby characterising nine different roles. 

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