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ITU-T e-FLASH - Issue No. 9


Telecommunication Standardization Sector

Issue No. 9 - WTSA Special October 2004


 Assembly outlines future global standards-setting 
The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) has drawn to a close with a plan for future global standards-setting and a clear statement about the direction of the future work of ITU-T. Internet-related issues and next generation networks emerged as key areas. 475 delegates from 75 countries participated.

The eight-day meeting covered a wide range of issues that will impact the future direction of the telecommunication industry. It made important decisions that lay the foundations for the next generation of information and communication technologies. The Assembly also streamlined the ITU-T work programme to achieve greater efficiency in the production of ITU standards (ITU-T Recommendations). Areas of work to be covered by study groups were consolidated and, as a result, an increased scope of study will be achieved with a reduction of some 15 per cent in the number of study topics (Questions).

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 New Study Group on next generation networks
Next generation networks represent the future evolution of current fixed and mobile networks. The fundamental difference between NGN and today’s network is the switch from current ‘circuit-switched’ networks to ‘packet-based’ systems such as those using Internet Protocol (IP). NGN is expected to give fixed-line and mobile users completely seamless communication and to offer unrestricted access by users to different service providers in a multi-service, multi-protocol, multi-vendor environment. The need for global standards for NGN is therefore critical as most operators expect to move to an IP infrastructure.

Against this background, WTSA decided to create a new study group for NGN. In addition to taking over the tasks foreseen for the former Study Group 13, the new study group will deal with all questions relating to architecture and frameworks for NGN. It will also decide on the future of the Focus Group that had been established prior to WTSA-04. Focus groups are set up to augment the study group work programme by providing an alternative working environment for the quick development of specifications in their chosen areas.

The signalling requirements for NGN will be developed by the new study group in conjunction with Study Group 11 (signalling). Coordination of all NGN-related activities in other study groups will also be the responsibility of the new NGN study group. To this end, other study groups will develop detailed Recommendations based on the requirements expressed by the NGN study group. The new study group will be assisted in its work by a joint coordination mechanism set up to coordinate core NGN studies in the area of mobility, signalling, naming, numbering, addressing and routing.

The first meeting of the new Study Group (13) will take place from 7 to 17 December this year.

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 Internet related issues 
Some of the key decisions of this Assembly relate to the internet work of ITU-T. The discussions found a positive outcome on the last day of the Assembly.

Measures to combat spam 

With spam having grown into one of the major plagues affecting the digital world, causing additional costs and loss of revenue to Internet service providers, telecoms operators and business users, measures to combat it have taken on an added sense of urgency. Technical measures are an important way to counter spam. With announcements made in recent months by industry and standards groups on improved technical measures to further counter spam, the Assembly decided to task ITU-T study groups to work with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and others to develop technical recommendations aimed at countering spam, including required definitions, that can have global applicability. The Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) will follow work carried out in this area for future guidance.

WTSA also adopted a resolution which calls for a report to be prepared on international initiatives undertaken for countering spam and on possible follow-up. The resolution also invites ITU Member States to take steps within their national legal frameworks to ensure that appropriate and effective measures are taken to combat spam.

ITU-T’s contribution to WSIS 

The WSIS Declaration adopted by Heads of State in December 2003 recognizes that "the management of the Internet encompasses both technical and public policy issues and should involve all stakeholders and relevant intergovernmental and international organizations". It also underlines the fact that "international organizations have had and should continue to have an important role in the development of Internet-related standards and relevant policies". Following the Declaration, and with a view to helping shape the ITU contribution to WSIS and in particular the WSIS Working Group on Internet Governance, WTSA decided to create a group for the purpose of providing the first meeting of the ITU Council Working Group on WSIS to be held in 2005 with input on the technical aspects of the telecommunication networks used by the Internet.

Naming, numbering, addressing, routing and identification resources 

The rapidly increasing use of mobile networks and the proliferation of services beyond traditional voice telephony require a separation of user identity from terminal identity and from geographic location, while not compromising global interconnectivity. With the anticipated development of new networks — or next generation networks — and their associated capabilities, it will be necessary to address new telecommunication services which will require unique numbering, naming and addressing capabilities. These capabilities have the potential to be significantly different from those applicable to currently deployed (legacy) networks, yet it is essential that they interwork fully with this legacy environment in order to allow any user to identify and reach any other user wherever they are in the world.

To this end, the work programme of Study Group 2, responsible for the operational aspects of service provision, networks and performance, will also examine naming, numbering, addressing and routing (NNAR) for NGN.

In addition, the Assembly revised a resolution on the allocation of international telecommunication numbering, naming, addressing and identification codes such as country codes, signalling area and network codes, data country codes, mobile country codes, etc. Based on the recognition that it is in the best interests of ITU members to build and maintain confidence in the use of telecom services, the text reaffirms the responsibility of ITU in this area and underlines the general principles governing the assignment, reassignment or reclamation of such international resources. It also asks study groups to provide advice and guidance on such issues, particularly in cases of complaints about misuses of an international numbering resource.


Considering the work carried out by ITU-T on electronic numbering (ENUM) and remaining unresolved issues, WTSA tasked Study Group 2 to examine how ITU could have administrative control over changes relating to international telecommunication resources including naming, numbering, addressing and routing used for ENUM.

ENUM is an Internet telephone number mapping protocol. Under the proposed ENUM protocol, and subject to national authorities and end-user approval, it will be possible for consumers to use a single number to access many types of terminals and services, such as phone, fax, e-mail, pager, mobile phones, websites or any other services available through an Internet addressing scheme, at home, at work or while roaming.

Country Code Top Level Domain Names 

Given that there are still issues that need to be addressed relating to the delegation of country code top level domains (ccTLD) to entities designated by national authorities, a new resolution was adopted, instructing ITU-T Study Group 2 to work with governments and industry to review Member States’ ccTLD experiences.

Internationalized Domain Names 

The Assembly tasked Study Group 17 to study internationalized domain names (IDN) identifying a need for an in-depth discussion of the related political, economic and technical issues arising out of the interaction between national sovereignty and international coordination and harmonization.  

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Cybersecurity was high on the agenda of this Assembly, following an increase in the type and number of cyberincidents, including attacks from worms, viruses, malicious intrusions and thrill-seekers and in light of the potential vulnerability resulting from the convergence of legacy networks with IP networks.

In addition to a workshop on cybersecurity organized on the eve of WTSA (see here), the Assembly adopted a Resolution on the subject. The Resolution tasks ITU-T to evaluate its Recommendations, especially in the area of signalling and communications protocols, in order to ensure their robustness, and prevent exploitation by malicious parties. It also asks that ITU-T continue to raise awareness of the need to defend information and communications systems against the threat of cyber attack and, continue to promote cooperation among appropriate entities in order to enhance exchange of technical information in the field of information and communication network security. 

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 Technology watch
The Assembly set up a new group to oversee the workshop programme of ITU-T. The seminar and workshop coordination committee (SCC) will see its exact mandate firmed-up in the next meeting of the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG).

As well as acting as an overseer of the organization of seminars and workshops, the group will act as a ‘technology watch’ to monitor the market for topic areas for workshops that may be fed back into the work programme of ITU-T. SCC will also seek to encourage developing countries to more actively participate in the definition and organization of these events.

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The issue of call-back and other similar practices has been on the ITU agenda for some time. At WTSA 2004, an amendment to the existing resolution on call-back was approved. Accordingly, Study Group 3 (tariffs) is requested to study the economic effect of call-back and other similar calling practices in developing countries and how it impacts on their ability to develop their telecommunication networks and services. The study will also evaluate the effectiveness of the suggested guidelines for consultation on call-back. Study Group 3 is also requested to examine other aspects and forms of alternative calling procedure including refiling.

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 Greater involvement of developing countries in standardization activities
Noting the difficulties encountered by developing countries, least developed countries (LDC) and countries with economies in transition, in ensuring their effective participation in the work of the Standardization Sector, the Assembly adopted an action plan based on 5 programmes. 

The first programme on strengthening standard-making capabilities, includes the introduction of webcasting of study group meetings to enable remote participation or assistance to these countries in the development of standardization plans, strategies and policies. The second programme will aim to ensure that developing countries, LDCs and countries with economies in transition have a clear understanding of ITU’s recommendations through an assessment of whether existing national standards are consistent with ITU-T’s application guidelines for ITU-T recommendations or training courses. The third programme, on human resource building, will be achieved through the organization of seminars, workshops and study group meetings in these countries. Under this programme, a forum will also be created, and moderated by a group of experts, to provide advice to standards bodies in these countries. Programme 4 calls for direct support by a developed country mentoring a group of developing countries, LDCs and countries with economies in transition to help them carry out their standardization activities more effectively. Finally, programme 5 invites public-private voluntary contributions to fund the implementation of the action plan.

Another measure taken by WTSA 2004 to improve the level of developing country participation in standardization activities is the creation of regional groups. Under this scheme already used in Study Group 3, chairmen of regional groups act as a liaison with countries of their region to inform them about the work of the study group and how it affects them. Regional groups also serve as a forum where needs of countries of the region are discussed and agreed for input to the work of the study group. The use of regional groups not only facilitates the adoption of common positions but also proves particularly useful for countries unable to participate in study group meetings.

Other measures adopted by the Assembly, pending approval by the ITU’s governing body (ITU Council), include the free access to ITU Handbooks, guidelines and other publications related to the implementation of ITU-T Recommendations, particularly those on planning, operation and maintenance of networks. ITU members already have free access to all ITU-T Recommendations. The Assembly also asked that a campaign is launched to promote standardization activities in Africa. 

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 Working methods
There was considerable discussion on whether the current way to approve technical recommendations that have no policy or regulatory impact needed revision. Before the Assembly, a recommendation could be approved by a study group if not opposed. A number of proposals were tabled to address this issue. The proponents for change argued that this effective veto right was introducing a degree of uncertainty to the development of technical recommendations. They proposed that a minimum number of member states be required to oppose. Those in favour of the status quo argued that the current approval process had demonstrated its merits, having reduced significantly time-to-market delivery of standards. In the course of the discussions, other proposals were put forward. After much discussion, the Chairman tabled a compromise proposal that the Assembly approved. Accordingly, the new approval process for recommendations that do not have a policy or regulatory impact (i.e. those approved under the accelerated approval process) will require that more than one Member State object to the adoption of a Recommendation for it to be considered opposed. At the same time, the Assembly tasked the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) which reviews the output of WTSAs on an ongoing basis and which has authority to act in between assemblies, to review the matter if required.

WTSA also approved a change in the ITU-T working methods dealing with the appointment and term of office for chairman and vice-chairmen of ITU-T study groups and of TSAG. The change approved by the Assembly introduces a geographical dimension to the appointment process by giving preference to candidates from members having the lowest number of designated study group chairmen when two candidates for the same position have the same competence.

Another area of change is the adoption of regional preparations for future WTSAs. The consolidation of views at regional level together with the opportunity for interregional discussions prior to the Assembly generally facilitates consensus-building. With the greater efficiency of regional preparations that has been witnessed at Florianópolis, WTSA 2004 decided to adopt a resolution which calls for the organization of one regional preparatory meeting per region, and an informal meeting of the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the regional preparatory meetings to be held within the six months following a WTSA.

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 Structure of the Sector and priorities of the work programme
A total of 165 questions have been allocated to the 13 Study Groups with the following general areas of responsibility:

Study Group 2 Operational aspects of service provision, networks and performance
Study Group 3 Tariff and accounting principles including telecommunication economic and policy issues
Study Group 4 Telecommunication management
Study Group 5 Protection against electromagnetic environment effects
Study Group 6 Outside plant and related outdoor installations
Study Group 9 Integrated broadband cable networks and television and sound transmission
Study Group 11 Signalling requirements and protocols
Study Group 12 Performance and quality of service
Study Group 13 Next generation networks (architecture, evolution and convergence)
Study Group 15 Optical and other transport network infrastructures
Study Group 16 Multimedia terminals, systems and applications
Study Group 17 Security, languages and telecommunications software
Study Group 19 (formerly Special Study Group) Mobile telecommunications networks 

(Please note that some study group pages may not have been updated to reflect the WTSA's decisions.)

Building on the success of WTSA 2000's proposals to increase efficiency in the production of ITU standards (ITU-T Recommendations), WTSA-04 delegates agreed to the consolidation of the areas of work to be covered by study groups. As a result, an increased scope of study will be achieved with a reduction of some 15 per cent in the number of Questions.

The new study group structure will start with the first series of meetings in November.

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 Gender mainstreaming
WTSA 2004 included, for the first time, a gender perspective in the work of the ITU-T with the adoption of a resolution on gender mainstreaming. The resolution encourages ITU-T members to contribute to meeting gender-equality objectives through the participation of women in both standardization activities and leadership positions.

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