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 Thursday, July 19, 2007

A new Question – ITU-T’s term for work area - to advance work on the third generation multimedia system that will eventually replace the currently used H.323 will start work pending formal approval at the next meeting of Study Group 16.

H.323 is the ITU standard for interoperability in audio, video and data transmissions over IP. It is the most widely used voice over IP (VoIP) communication protocol worldwide. It is estimated that systems using H.323 carry billions of voice minutes each month. The rollout of the next generation network (NGN) will bring with it in a new era of multimedia communications and with it the need for a new protocol.

In the mid-1990s, the ITU began work on H.323, which quickly became the dominant protocol for LAN-based videoconferencing, as well as a protocol used for transporting voice calls around the world. H.323 was developed in parallel with the Internet Engineering Task Force’s (IETF) Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), and was effective in facilitating a migration from circuit-switched networks to packet-switched networks. Sharing similar capabilities and similar design philosophies and being produced in the same time period, H.323 and SIP are classified as second generation systems.

Now, more than 11 years since the introduction of second generation systems, ITU-T SG 16 is again looking toward the future of multimedia systems as the ITU-T also undertakes a study to introduce the next generation network (NGN). The NGN holds the promise of revolutionizing communication as we know it and multimedia will be an important part of any new network technology.

Work on the third generation multimedia system will entail the creation of multiple new ITU-T Recommendations that will specify system architecture, system components, and one or more protocols at the service and application layer. The primary objective is to deliver a new advanced multimedia system that operates on NGN, taking advantage of its features, and will also operate on non-NGN packet-switched networks.

This Question will examine technologies such as various IP technologies, wireless technologies, and distributed computing capabilities in order to realize a system that will enable users to communicate using, as examples, voice and audio, video, electronic whiteboard, application sharing, real-time text, and file transfer across one or more communicating devices (e.g. smart phones, TV set-top boxes, game consoles, handheld game/entertainment machines, digital cameras and Internet “appliances”).

Unlike previous generation systems, this new system will enable independent application developers to create system components that are able to seamlessly interface with the system in order to deliver any one or more of the aforementioned modes of communication. There is a strong desire to move away from the “monolithic applications” that were distinctive of second generation systems, to a system that enables components to “plug in” to the system, either locally or remotely using various wired or wireless technologies, to deliver an enhanced user experience. To meet that objective, this Question will study the various interfaces between these components and the technologies that might be used to tie them together.

The study includes among other subjects:

• Downloadable codecs

• System decomposition

• Discovery of services

• Support for transcoding functionality (e.g. text to speech)

• Dynamic device discovery

• Application plug in

• Consideration of various business models

• Integrated QoS, security and mobility functionality

Experts have set deadlines for the Identification of Requirements - Q1/2008, and basic architecture - Q1/2009.