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ITU-T e-FLASH - Issue No. 10


Telecommunication Standardization Sector

Issue No. 10 November 2004


 ITU and Internet Governance
Director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), Houlin Zhao has drafted an input to the 7th meeting of the ITU Council Working Group on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), outlining his vision for ITU's role in future Internet governance. The draft is available on the web, and comments welcome until 15 November.

Internet governance was one of the hot issues that emerged during the first phase of the WSIS. In his paper, Zhao says that he believes ITU has an important role to play, along with other key players in the area. He highlights the fact that people are troubled by the current lack of consensus over who should do what. Particularly at the international level, Zhao suggests that everybody would benefit from a more coordinated approach on Internet and IP-based services.

In outlining ITU's competences in the field, the paper points to various ITU achievements. 

Behind the success of the Internet are a number of ITU-T standards. H.323, which facilitates the delivery of voice, video and data over computer networks like the Internet remains the most used standard for this job. The H.323 family of standards has been crucial in fostering the development of new voice-over-IP services (VoIP), winning widespread support from equipment vendors because it enables interoperability between products from different manufacturers.

ASN.1 is a key part of the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) that is used to manage the Internet’s operation. And the X.500 directory services system is used extensively within today's IP-based networks in the form of object identifiers for object code modules for SNMP. One of the most well known standards in the area, X.509, is used for securing the connection between a browser and a server on the web and for providing digital signatures that enable e-commerce transactions to be conducted.

All this is in addition to the fact that ITU-T is the world leader in access standards including for DSL, Cable and Fiber to the Home (FTTH). 

Additional to the standards mentioned in the paper other ITU work means that web surfers around the world can access real-time video from remote servers. H.264 the latest video compression algorithm gives users unprecedented levels of quality. A raft of other standards in the H series help to create a better user experience. And, arguably, without the success of the ITU-T V.90 modem standard, the Internet would not have grown to the size that it is today.  

The paper also shows how ITU's support for the liberalization of telecommunications markets as well as other policy contributions have facilitated the development of the Internet.

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 Standards Training
IEC, ISO and ITU, the three organizations that make up the World Standards Cooperation initiative (WSC), recently staged a course on standardization, aimed at managers from all areas of industry. The Standardization Community Management Course, 20-24 September 2004, Geneva, gave an overview of standardization and the activities of all three organizations. There were modules on the history of standards, the importance of standardization, legal issues, the working practices of the three organizations and how standards are marketed.

Presentations were given by high-ranking members of all organizations.

TSB Director, Houlin Zhao's presentation focussed on IPR and specifically how ITU's standardization sector deals with this thorny issue. 

IEC General Secretary, Aharon Amit, talked about the history of standards, using the example of a weight unit from China called the Liang. In the first century, Liang was a word used to describe a vessel in which instructions were inscribed detailing the exact manufacturing process, thereby ensuring that a standard measure of volume was created.

A guest speaker from the World Trade Organization used a case study on sardines to illustrate the importance of international standards (compared to local standards) in the resolution of international trade disputes. 

Reinhard Scholl, Deputy to the Director of TSB provided some entertainment, composing a ‘poetry of ICT standards’ for his presentation. He and Kevin McKinley, Deputy Secretary General, ISO, used the example of a fire in Baltimore, to illustrate how US authorities were woken up to the value of standardization. The fire in 1904, got out of control and spread quickly through the city. Fire companies as far as 100 miles away rushed to aid, but, it was found that their hose couplings could not attach to the hydrants, nor to other hoses – there were no standard couplings. While firemen watched helplessly, Baltimore burned. This disaster was the stimulus to establish standard hose couplings by the US National Fire Protection Association, and standard screw threads and other mechanical standards by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. 

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 Numbering Workshop Held in Yemen
ITU held a workshop 13-15 September in Sana'a, Yemen on numbering plan policies. The workshop was designed to give attendees a better understanding of numbering plan policies and the impact and implication of ENUM implementation, including administrative and regulatory issues. 

Richard Hill, counsellor to ITU-T Study Groups 2 and 4, gave the keynote presentation on ENUM and numbering issues.  

The ENUM protocol provides a mapping into the Internet Domain Name System (DNS) of the international numbering plan defined in ITU-T Recommendation E.164. ENUM raises a number of regulatory and policy issues, some of which were explored in the workshop. 

His Excellency, Mr. Abdel-Malek Almualemi, the Minister of Communication and Information Technology of Yemen, opened the workshop, attended by 81 particpants from eight arab countries.

Dr. Abdelfattah Abuqayyas, Arab Centre of Excellence (CoE - see note below) Coordinator, in his opening speech said that the rapid change in information and communication technologies (ICT) during the past decade has increased the necessity for updating the national numbering plan (based on ITU-T Recommendation E.164) and having a complementary numbering plan for all services based on ENUM. The joint effort of ITU with other concerned agencies is the basis for successful mapping of the numbering national plan into ENUM, he said. This mapping is facing many legislative and regulatory difficulties, and, he added, this workshop met the real demand of all countries in the region in the capacity building process and raised awareness among all stakeholders. 

Abuqayyas called for active participation in the CoE's activities and in the coming CoE General Assembly meeting to be held in Muscat, Oman, December 2004.

CoE - Centres of Excellence are an ITU sponsored instrument whose primary mandate is to train policy-makers, regulators and managers in the development of national telecommunication sector priorities and regulations, as well as senior corporate managers in the management of telecommunication networks and services. more. 

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 ITU Video Spec Recommended for 3G Mobile
The latest specifications for 3G telephony incorporate the ITU video coding standard H.264. The news that H.264 has been adopted by both 3GPP and 3GPP2, the two partnership projects that define the specifications for third generation mobile, is the latest in a long line of adoptions by industry of the ground breaking standard. The move is expected to open the door to a richer variety of content on mobile networks. 

H.264 offers a method for compressing and decompressing video (codec for short) and is slated to replace the MPEG-2 format, commonly used by broadcasters and in multimedia products, such as DVDs and video games.

H.264 is ideal for mobile telephony networks because it allows for video to be transmitted at greatly reduced bandwidth. H.264 is written by the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) together with the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG), a collective effort known as the Joint Video Team (JVT).

More here and here.

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 NGN Management Focus Group Formed
ITU-T has created a new group to examine some management aspects of NGN. Specifically the group will look at the fault, configuration, accounting, performance and security management interfaces within NGN. These elements are key if operators wish to roll out services quickly and efficiently.

The NGN Management Focus Group was created in response to a call by the NGN Focus Group to develop specifications to be included in NGN Release 1 planned for 2005. 

Because of the tight schedule for NGN Release 1 the group has agreed to emphasize the use of existing and in-progress specifications where possible. Where appropriate, the group will recommend the use of specifications from non-ITU organizations. Other groups invited to participate include the European Telecommunications Standards Institute's (ETSI) TISPAN, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions' Telecom Management and Operations Committee (ATIS TMOC), The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), 3GPP2, Telemanagement Forum and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

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 Voice Quality Prediction Tool Available From ITU Website
A new feature on ITU-T's website is a computational tool that allows network planners to predict the voice transmission quality of different network and terminal configurations. The tool, known as E-model allows you to enter the transmission characteristics of network and terminal equipment in order to calculate the expected speech quality using that setup. 

E-model is based on ITU-T Recommendation G.107, and takes into account many parameters, such as the effects of room noise, quantizing distortion, delay, codec impairments and impairments due to packet-loss. The software, available via Study Group 12's webpage, was developed and is offered by Alcatel. 

The new feature is especially useful for transmission planners looking to ensure good end-to-end voice transmission performance. Its primary output is a transmission rating, giving categories like “best” or “poor” according to ITU-T Recommendation G.109. The tool can be useful for identifying planning errors or design flaws, such as when one expects high transmission quality ratings for a given configuration but low values are returned by the E-model. Guidelines are available, which should be read before using the tool and applying results.

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 Products And Services - New Edition Security Manual
A new version of the ITU-T manual - Security in Telecommunications and Information Technology is available. Houlin Zhao, TSB Director says in his introduction to the new guide: "Encouraged by the enthusiastic reception of the ICT community worldwide and viewing the valuable proposals and feedback from the readers, we prepared a new version (of this security manual). This new version, version 2004, has a new structure with additional new material and some areas have been expanded on."

The 24 extra pages include new sections on secure mobile end-to-end data data communications, the availability dimension and infrastructure layer and incident organization and security incident handling (guidelines) for telecommunication organizations.

The manual aggregates all of the available information on the deployment of existing ITU-T Recommendations for secure telecommunications. It aims to act as a guide for technologists, middle level management and regulators to assist in the practical implementation of security functions.

An electronic version of the guide is available: [ PDF ]

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Updated : 2004-12-06