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ANSI Hosts Telecom, ICT Industry Roundtable with ITU-TSB Director Malcolm Johnson

New York  December 9, 2013


The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) hosted Malcolm Johnson, director of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), for a roundtable on telecommunications, information and communication technologies (ICT), and related industries on December 5, 2013.

Following an introductory presentation by Mr. Johnson, meeting chairman Phil Wennblom, director of standards at Intel, led the group in an active dialogue. The primary issues addressed during the three-hour meeting included:

  • Evolution of the ITU-T program of standardization to encompass telecom, ICT, and related industries
  • Relationships between the ITU-T and other standards developing organizations (SDOs)
  • World Trade Organization (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee principles for developing international standards
  • The interest of developing and developed countries in telecom, ICT, and related standardization
  • Status and future plans for the ITU-T’s conformity assessment program

“The traditional boundaries between industry sectors have blurred, and that means that SDO scope boundaries have also blurred. And now that ICT is applied to other sectors, like healthcare, automotive, and more, the challenge is compounded,” said Mr. Wennblom. “Industry doesn’t want to do the same work in multiple venues at multiple times.”

Mr. Johnson acknowledged that this is a serious challenge, and called on all SDOs – including his own organization – to focus on collaboration and cooperation rather than competition. As a mechanism to avoid this type of conflict, ITU-TSB engages in dialogue on common issues, coordination, and duplication with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Management Board and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Standardization Management Board. But Mr. Johnson cautioned that there are a lot of other standards bodies and consortia, both national and regional, where duplicative work may be undertaken.

Further, he suggested that SDOs should work towards common or complementary international standards. Mr. Johnson specifically cited the latest standard for video coding (ITU-T H.265 or ISO/IEC 23008-2), jointly developed by ITU and ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC 1), as a successful model [see related article]. Considering a possible trend of more joint work between standards setting organizations, Mr. Wennblom noted that some joint efforts may be viewed by industry as an approach that adds complexity and delays the development process without providing significant benefits.

Mr. Johnson also described his efforts to bridge the standardization gap by getting more developing countries, universities, and research institutes involved in ITU-T’s standards activities. Over the last seven years, more than 40 new countries have gotten involved, Mr. Johnson noted, with “new countries and new faces at every study group meeting.” Responding to a question on how the increase in developing country participation has affected the development of ITU-T recommendations, Mr. Johnson said that it has benefited and has not slowed the standardization process. Developing countries don’t have the same national industries that drive technical requirements – primarily, they want to contribute their requirements and understand how to implement the technologies.

In fact, requests from developing countries for assistance with quality and interoperability issues are what drove ITU’s interest in a conformity assessment program. Mr. Johnson described the effort, currently a pilot driven by Study Group 11, where an accredited testing laboratory would test a product or service against an ITU-T recommendation. If the vendor wishes, the fact that the test was passed could be published in a publicly accessible ITU online database. This would be a voluntary effort, and would only continue to grow if there is a market demand for a centralized conformance resource of this type. Mr. Johnson acknowledged that there is a long road ahead, and that ITU-T is reviewing other groups’ existing conformity assessment initiatives to identify best practices.

“In order to continue our forward-thinking perspective and maintain leadership in telecom, ICT, and IT innovation, the international standardization community must commit to working in tandem towards solutions,” concluded S. Joe Bhatia, ANSI president and CEO. “There is no doubt that these industries will continue their meteoric growth, and that’s why we need a comprehensive approach – one that involves close coordination between the public and private sectors, and participation by stakeholders nationally and internationally.”


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