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 Tuesday, 27 April 2010
The recent meeting of ITU’s Council saw a report from Malcolm Johnson the Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) on progress made in implementing work on conformity and interoperability testing as requested by Resolution 76 in 2008 (WTSA-08).

In introducing the work Johnson said: “Currently all successful standards development organizations (SDOs) dealing with standards on interoperability have, in addition to the production of paper standards, three additional components: testing specifications; conformance testing to determine compliant products; and interoperability testing amongst various manufacturers’ products implementing the standard(s).

“ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T), which is the pre-eminent global telecommunication standards body dealing specifically with global interoperability currently lacks these three additional elements to develop the full range of interoperable standards.

“This prompted a plea for help from developing countries, expressed in WTSA Resolution 76, to redress this problem as an important element of assistance to them in achievement of their desired level of conformity and interoperability nationally and internationally in telecommunications.

“Successful implementation of this programme is therefore crucially important to ITU-T maintaining its status as the pre-eminent global standards development organization in the face of increasing competition from other SDOs, forums and consortia.

“Defining more interfaces where interoperability can be tested increases competition and reduces the chances of being locked in to a single product.”

Johnson went on to define various actions, starting with a pilot version of a conformity database which is under development in line with a proposal put to Council-09 and taking account of advice provided by the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) and ITU-T’s Joint Coordination Activity on Conformance and Interoperability Testing (JCA-CIT). He said that the database would only record information provided by companies on conformity of their products to ITU-T Recommendations. Companies input the data into the database themselves. Following the advice of TSAG, access to the database is password protected (TIES) during the development phase.

The second action detailed by Johnson is the establishment of a calendar of “informal” interoperability events, some in partnership with interested SDOs/forums/consortia. The first such interoperability event is to take place on 20-23 July 2010, in Geneva to test ITU-T’s standards for IPTV.

The third action, Johnson said will be the implementation of human resources capacity building events. He said that ITU-T’s secretariat, the TSB and the secretariat of ITU-D, the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) are preparing a programme of such events. Events are planned for  Quito (Ecuador) and Nairobi (Kenya). Both Bureaux, he added, looked forward to receiving advice in this regard from the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-10), to be held in Hyderabad, India, from 24 May to 4 June 2010.

TSB and BDT are also working together to assist in the establishment of test facilities in developing countries. Discussions with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have already begun and a pilot project has been conducted in Tanzania.

TSB has begun work on the framework of a business plan for the long term implementation of the actions and which will provide the environmental background; the pros and cons of acting on Resolution 76; a road map for the implementation of the actions; a budget; legal aspects; study group actions; and partnerships for taking the work forward.
Following various questions and comments from the floor Johnson emphasized that Resolution 76 addresses both conformity and interoperability. Conformity does not imply interoperability, he said, but the chances of interoperability are definitely higher if equipment has been shown to conform to a standard.

The demand for a conformity database was simple he said: people want a database on the ITU website where they can see what products had been successfully tested to ITU-T Recommendations. To ensure the credibility of the database, tests will be carried out in an accredited laboratory: first, second or third party; or be accepted by an accredited certification body. Companies will voluntarily input the data directly into the database, but the information will only be made publicly available after TSB has received a supplier’s declaration.

Johnson emphasized that TSB is committed to working in consultation with all members and in collaboration with other SDOs, forums and consortia. For example, just within the last couple of weeks TSB had visited ATIS, TIA, ITI and several Sector Members in the USA to discuss Resolution 76. TSB had also visited the Interoperability Testing Lab of the University of New Hampshire, a not-for profit organization that has a formidable reputation in the testing field and which has been invited to the ITU-T Study Group 15 meeting in June.

Johnson concluded by confirming that TSB is committed to consulting and collaborating with all ITU-T membership to ensure the successful implementation of Resolution 76. It is a long and winding road but there is no turning back, he said. The Director of BDT, Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, also expressed appreciation for the positive tone in the Council on this subject and emphasized that TSB and BDT are working closely together on this issue.

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