Nº 2 2013 > Special report
Dubai strengthens ITU–T's global role
Two major ITU events in Dubai in 2012, hosted by the Government of the United Arab Emirates, charted the future of telecommunication standards and standardization activities. These were the Global Standards Symposium and the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly. But ITU also keeps its finger on the pulse of industry, and these big meetings were preceded by ITU’s annual Chief Technology Officer meeting, also held in Dubai. How will the results of these meetings shape the work of ITU in the next four years?
Global Standards Symposium addresses major challenges
Government ministers, private-sector executives and the standardization community at the second Global Standards Symposium, which took place on 19 November 2012, urged ITU to create standardization mechanisms to serve the needs of the “vertical” markets (such as health care) that are becoming increasingly dependent on information and communication technologies (ICT).
The Global Standards Symposium was chaired by Nasser Bin Obood Al Falasi, Chief Government Relations and Communications Officer at Etisalat Group. Participants addressed two particular challenges resulting from the convergence of information and communication technologies and their integration into all sectors and industries.
First, because of convergence, the traditional demarcation between the work of different standards bodies is becoming blurred, and there is an increasing risk of overlap and duplication. As a result, there is a need for much closer cooperation between these different standards bodies.
Second, because of integration, standardization bodies in the ICT sector must now work with other industry sectors to develop new global standards for new services. For example, successful standards for intelligent transport systems need the participation of the automobile manufacturers; those for e‑health, the healthcare industry; those for mobile money, the banks; and those for smart grids, the utilities.
Participants recognized that different sectors have their own product lifecycles, and their own distinct policy and regulatory conditions, complete with their own concerns about data ownership, safety, security and privacy. These aspects need to be taken into account if the different sectors concerned are to be encouraged to participate in the work of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU–T).
Most technical standards are developed in a handful of highly industrialized markets, so participants supported ITU’s efforts to bridge the standardization gap by improving the standardization capabilities of emerging markets. They also encouraged ITU–T to provide leadership in driving standards education and ICT innovation in developing countries.
Calling on ITU to ensure that international standards reflect the best of innovations rooted in developing countries, the Global Standards Symposium proposed the establishment of national standardization secretariats able to define a country’s standardization requirements and channel participation in regional and international standardization work.
Chief technology officers call for vertical sector participation in standards development
ITU’s annual Chief Technology Officer (CTO) meeting — held on 18 November 2012 under the chairmanship of Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) — acknowledged increasing industry convergence powered in large part by ICT and charged ITU to develop mechanisms that better integrate the needs of “vertical” sectors in its work on international standardization, to enable such innovations as e‑health, e‑learning, intelligent transport systems, mobile money and smart grid.
As ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré said, “Standards power a smoothly-functioning global ICT network that supports health, education, literacy, democracy, commerce and entertainment… and almost every other vertical sector. We must ask ourselves however whether the vast array of forums and consortiums proliferating in the ICT sector today is the most efficient way to address a market that continues to grow in sophistication and complexity.”
The CTO meeting brought together 21 private-sector executives from leading multinational ICT companies, including Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Etisalat, Fujitsu, Huawei, KDDI, NEC, NSN, NTT, Orange FT, RIM, Telecom Italia, Telkom SA and Verizon. They discussed ITU’s role in the standardization ecosystem and the associated priorities of ITU–T.
The CTOs emphasized the need for collaboration between the mobile and transport and access standardization communities. This, they said, will be crucial to ensure a coordinated approach to the development of optical transport standards supporting the roll-out of mobile broadband beyond 4G (or IMT-Advanced in ITU parlance). In addition, they proposed smartphone security standardization as a new ITU–T study area, as well as the expansion of ITU–T’s work on software-defined networking.
The CTOs discussed the possibility of a release-based approach to standards delivery, to help synchronize work when a number of standards-development organizations and industry forums are involved. They suggested that ITU–T’s ongoing work on cloud computing and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications serve as potential subjects for pilot projects to ascertain the effectiveness of a release-based approach to standards delivery.
The CTO meeting also supported ITU’s efforts to bridge the standardization gap and better integrate the needs of developing countries.
World Assembly defines new era for ITU–T and calls for expansion of work on e‑health, software-defined networking and e‑waste
The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly 2012 (WTSA‑12) was held on 20–29 November 2012, with a record 1000 participants from 102 Member States, along with some 40 Sector Members and, for the first time, the new Academia membership category.
World telecommunication standardization assemblies are held every four years to review the state of play in the world of ICT and ITU–T’s role in it. Throughout the course of every year, thousands of experts from around the world contribute their time, know-how and expertise to ITU–T study groups. These study groups develop and maintain international ICT standards, known as ITU–T Recommendations.
At WTSA‑08 in Johannesburg many new initiatives were agreed for ITU–T, especially in the area of sustainability. Over the last four years, ITU–T has begun many new activities that will aid countries, industry and citizens to harness the great power of ICT, to become more sustainable, to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and to enable persons with disabilities to live better lives. The Assembly in Dubai was unanimous in praising ITU–T for the achievements of the 2009–2012 study period.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr Touré underlined that “Standardization and interoperability are at the core of ICT. They are essential to ensure that the host of different devices, communication networks and protocols can communicate and work in parallel to deliver services to end users with reliability, affordability, and without delay no matter their circumstances.”
Mohammed Gheyath, Chairman of WTSA‑12 and Executive Director of Policies and Programs/Information and E‑Government Sector at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates, commented that “Since its foundation, ITU has emphasized the importance of developing unified global telecommunication standards in accordance with the principles of global connectivity, openness, affordability, reliability, interoperability, and security”.
WTSA‑12 called on ITU–T to expand its work on e‑health, software-defined networking and e‑waste. In addition, WTSA‑12 adopted 50 Resolutions, six of which were new. Alongside revising seven of the A-series Recommendations that guide ITU–T’s work, six new ITU standards were approved, including two Recommendations on multiprotocol label switching-transport profile (MPLS-TP), which are required by operators to increase network efficiency and reduce costs. These two Recommendations (ITU–T G.8113.1 and ITU–T G.8113.2) represent many years of collaboration with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
Taking into account the conclusions of the Global Standards Symposium, WTSA‑12 adopted Resolution 82 establishing a Review Committee to ensure that ITU–T’s structure continues to meet the needs of the continually evolving and convergent ICT landscape, particularly as collaboration with vertical markets increases.
Malcolm Johnson, Director of TSB observed that: “During this World Assembly, and the Global Standards Symposium that preceded it, the importance of collaboration and cooperation with other standards bodies, and vertical sectors, has been emphasized, recognizing the competitive forces and the many challenges that ITU–T faces. I am pleased that we have the new Review Committee as a forum with the time to discuss these issues seriously and come up with suggestions on how ITU–T, as the only truly global ICT standards body, can best ensure that it remains the place to come to develop international standards.”
One Opinion, concerning Recommendation ITU–T D.156 on “network externalities”, was also adopted. It invites Member States to take all measures necessary to implement the Recommendation and, given the progress achieved within Study Group 3, to consider withdrawing any reservations.
Renewing ITU–T study groups
WTSA‑12 approved the mandates of the ten ITU–T study groups, and appointed the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG), the ITU–T study groups, the regional groups of ITU–T Study Group 3, the Standardization Committee for Vocabulary and the Review Committee (see full list at http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/wtsa12/Pages/wtsa12-results-chairmen.aspx).
As an illustration of the growing involvement of developing countries, of the four new chairmen and a total of 50 new vice-chairmen that were appointed by the Assembly for the 2013–2016 study period, 25 were from developing countries. Congratulating them, Mr Johnson said he looked forward to working with them “to ensure that ITU–T remains the only truly global ICT standards body where all countries and companies, no matter how large or small, are afforded equal opportunity to engage in, and influence, the work to produce the standards they need”.
Mr Gheyath commented that the two-week Assembly had been “a consolidation of the tireless activity and major efforts deployed by the ITU–T study groups over the past four years”. Speaking on behalf of all delegations, he added that “these efforts were effective in generating positive outcomes that facilitated Assembly business and helped produce recommendations and resolutions to serve the common interest.” Acknowledging this outstanding work, Mr Johnson awarded certificates of appreciation to study group chairmen and the chairman of TSAG.
Bridging the standardization gap
WTSA‑12 strongly supported ITU–T’s “Bridging the Standardization Gap” programme, which endeavours to increase the participation of developing countries in ITU’s work. The programme was established in response to Resolution 44 on “Bridging the standardization gap between developing and developed countries”, first adopted in 2004 at WTSA‑04 in Florianópolis, Brazil, and updated by WTSA‑08, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2008.
Mr Johnson reported that “since 2007, more than 40 countries that had never before participated in ITU–T’s work were able to do so for the first time, and in 2011 alone we welcomed 16 new countries as active participants in ITU–T.”
WTSA‑12 revised Resolution 44, calling for country-specific guidelines on how to implement ITU–T Recommendations, especially those with regulatory implications. The resolution mandates ITU to assist developing countries in the establishment of standardization secretariats, and calls on TSB to provide assistance to check that national standards are consistent with ITU–T Recommendations.
Resolution 44 also “invites the Council to encourage the establishment of a specialized panel for stimulating ICT innovations, under ITU–T, with the objective of enhancing global collaborative innovation”.
Commenting on the updated Resolution 44, Mr Johnson said: “I am pleased to see the impetus given to the efforts to bridge the standards gap. The Bridging the Standardization Gap fund that we set up after Johannesburg to support developing-country participation has had four contributors: Nokia Siemens Networks, Microsoft, Cisco and Korea Communications Commission. I would like to thank them and encourage further contributions to this fund.”
Conformity and interoperability
Of interest to developing countries are the significant changes that WTSA‑12 made to Resolution 76 on conformity and interoperability, putting ITU–T on a much better footing to take forward this important programme. Conformance assessment and interoperability testing are indispensable to ensure interoperability of international telecommunication networks and services.
Misuse of numbering resources
Revised Resolution 61 focuses on countering and combating misappropriation and misuse of international telecommunication numbering resources. This is, again, a problem affecting developing countries in particular. The resolution invites Member States to ensure that ITU–T E.164 numbering resources are used only by assignees and only for the purposes for which they were assigned.
Ending discriminatory access to Internet
Noting the global and open nature of the Internet as a driving force in accelerating progress towards socio-economic development, and that discrimination regarding access to the Internet could greatly affect developing countries, revised Resolution 69 (“Non-discriminatory access and use of Internet resources”) invites affected ITU Member States to report to ITU on any unilateral and/or discriminatory actions that could impede another Member State from accessing public Internet sites and using resources, within the spirit of Article 1 of the ITU Constitution and the principles of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
Concern for the environment
Revised Resolution 73 focuses on the environment and climate change, emphasizing that ICT are fundamental to monitoring climate change, mitigating and adapting to its effects, and assisting in the transition towards a green economy.
New Resolution 79 instructs the ITU–T study groups to strengthen their activities on e‑waste and to assist Member States in instituting policy frameworks that limit e‑waste’s negative environmental effects.
ICT and health care
Resolution 78 on e‑health will prompt new work in various ITU–T study groups, as well as increased interaction with the World Health Organization and other organizations addressing ICT healthcare standards.
Security standards for e‑health communications, services, databases, records handling, identification and authentication are among the priorities identified in Resolution 78.
Standards for software-defined networking
Software-defined networking is a promising technology that, like cloud computing, has led to flexibility, cost efficiency and manageability of computation and storage resources through virtualization. New Resolution 77 is a response to a specific request from industry to accelerate standardization in this space.
Backing words with money
Increased funding will be essential if ITU–T is to implement all the decisions made at WTSA‑12. Revised Resolution 34 seeks more voluntary contributions to support the work of ITU–T, but the TSB budget also needs to be increased.
In particular, Resolution 44 “invites the Council to increase the ITU–T budgetary provisions for fellowships, interpretation and translation of documents for meetings of TSAG, ITU–T study groups and regional groups of ITU–T study groups”.
Resolution 54 “resolves to invite the Council to consider providing support for the regional groups as appropriate”.
Resolution 67 instructs the TSB Director “to translate all TSAG reports in all the languages of the Union” and “invites the Council to take appropriate measures to ensure that information on the ITU websites is made available in all the official languages of the Union on an equal footing within budgetary limits.”