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 Wednesday, November 30, 2005
The latest meeting of TSAG saw the formation of a new correspondence group to examine what role ITU-T should have in conformance and interoperability testing for its standards.

The stamp of approval that shows conformance to a standard could be a potent marketing tool for manufacturers of equipment. 

The convener of the group Arve Meisingset of Telenor R&D in Norway, and Vice Chairman of Study Group 17 said: “There are many possibilities, from maintaining the status quo in which third parties can test for conformance without a complete set of ITU testing standards to the setting-up of actual testing labs based on ITU guidelines and standards. We will look at the pros and cons of all possibilities; examine what is appropriate for ITU to do, and what members want.”

Currently, while there are procedures in some Recommendations, there is no systematic approach to testing implementations of ITU-T Recommendations for conformance or interoperability. And, so initial steps will probably be along the lines of producing guidelines for protocol writers and users of those protocols, and examining how ITU can produce a more complete set of testing standards to help the testing community and product suppliers deliver better standards-based products.

Existing ITU-T applicable specifications include the 7-part X.290-series Recommendations that covers generic aspects of conformance testing. In addition, SG 17 is standardizing a testing methodology and framework for interoperability testing. SG 17 will write the guidelines and generic testing methodology standards while SG 11 will write protocol-specific testing standards. Other study groups have also developed specific methodologies for particular Recommendations. For example, Study Group 16 has developed a conformance testing specification for the video compression codec H.264/AVC. 

Experts agreed that future work will benefit from the more systematic method that could result from this activity.

In conformance testing, the objective is to determine how completely and correctly the requirements of the standard have been met by the implementation. In interoperability testing, the objective is to determine if two or more implementations of the same standard interoperate with each other. In the telecommunication world, it is generally assumed that the implementations have been tested for conformance prior to interoperability testing.