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 Friday, 14 June 2013

An upcoming Joint ATU-ITU Seminar on the outcomes of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-12) and the World Conference on International Telecommunications ( WCIT-12) will offer Africa’s ICT executives and policy makers an insight into the meaning and significance of these conference’s outcomes with a view to ensuring their effective implementation. The event will be preceded by two workshops geared towards key directives issued by WTSA-12 and WCIT-12, that of countering spam and ensuring the eco-friendly management of e-waste. The two full-day workshops are free of charge and open to all interested parties, including non-members of ITU.

The three events will be hosted by South Africa’s Department of Communications at the International Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa:

The 2012 meeting of ITU-T’s main decision-making body, WTSA, adopted the first-ever Resolutions on e-health, software-defined networking and e-waste. ITU-T also saw its mandate re-emphasized and strengthened in crucial areas such as accessibility, climate change, and conformity and interoperability, along with encouragement for the greater participation of academia.

WCIT-12’s revision of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) was especially relevant to ITU-T, with the new treaty requiring Member States to encourage the application of relevant ITU-T Recommendations in areas including Quality of Service (QoS), numbering, international calling line identification, international roaming, emergency communications, countering spam, energy-efficiency, e-waste and accessibility. WCIT-12 also called on ITU-T to study the regulatory, technical and economic issues which need to be addressed in the transition from dedicated phone and data networks to converged IP-based networks.

The workshop on “Countering and Combating Spam” responds to Article 7 of the new ITRs on “unsolicited bulk electronic communications” which encourages Member States to cooperate in taking necessary measures to prevent the propagation of spam and minimize its impact on international telecommunication services.

The workshop on the “Environmentally Sound Management of e-Waste” responds to Article 8 of the new ITRs which encourages Member States to adopt energy-efficiency and e-waste best practices, taking into account relevant ITU-T Recommendations. WTSA-12 offered another boost to ITU’s mandate in this arena by agreeing a new Resolution on e-waste; giving further impetus to ITU’s standardization work on the subject and requesting ITU’s standardization and development sectors, ITU-T and ITU-D, to assist Member States in instituting policy frameworks that limit e-waste’s negative environmental effects. It also instructs ITU-T Study Group 5 to develop Recommendations, methodologies and other publications relating to handling and controlling e-waste as well as methods of treating it.

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Friday, 14 June 2013 09:16:34 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The latest ITU-T Technology Watch report charts the rise of mobile money, illustrating the importance of global standards in supporting recent advances in mobile payments enabled by near field communication (NFC) and in fortifying mobile money’s inroads into enhancing financial inclusion in developing countries.

Just 15 years ago the mobile phone was used almost exclusively to make calls, send texts and play simple games. Mobile phones today access the Internet, make video calls, take photos, find your location on a map, purchase tickets for public transport, and provide electronic banking services. Innovation in financial services, mobile technology and NFC continues to expand these applications and our ever-present mobile devices are fast evolving into substitutes for wallets and bank accounts, transforming the way we transfer money and pay for goods and services.

The report is published in two parts, the first focused on NFC-enabled mobile payments and the second on mobile money’s game-changing impacts in developing countries. Read or download the full report here.

Part 1 analyses innovations in ‘tap and go’ NFC mobile payments and their likely impact on future standardization activities. A mobile device’s electronic account or “mobile wallet” serves to replace deposit accounts, credit accounts, loyalty accounts, merchant accounts, gift cards and coupons. In developed countries the mobile wallet is also playing a role as a container for different currencies and bank accounts.

Part 2 considers the innovations driving mobile money transfer apps in developing countries. Globally, more than 2.5 billion adults do not have access to a formal bank account and mobile money is thus seen as a crucial means through which to tackle the low levels of financial inclusion that continue to pose a barrier to socio-economic development in emerging economies. In keeping with mobile money’s importance in the transfer of money between migrant labourers and their dependents, the report also reviews the technical standards working behind the scenes to ensure the security of mobile money transfer services. 

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Tuesday, 11 June 2013 07:29:22 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Monday, 10 June 2013

The recent meeting of the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) has seen the launch of a new Focus Group to hasten standards development in the key area of Smart Water Management.

The formation of the Focus Group on Smart Water Management (FG-SWM) responds to the Luxor Call to Action emanating from a workshop held in Luxor, Egypt, 14-15 April 2013.

The event highlighted the necessity of a multi-stakeholder approach to the development of ‘smart’ water-management systems; one that incorporates the views of irrigation, agriculture, environment and communications ministries as well as those of the ICT industry and relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

FG-SWM is expected to carry out the following specific tasks:

  • Collect and document information on national, regional and international smart water management initiatives; reporting on current activities and technical specifications.
  • Specify the roles to be played by ICTs in smart water management.
  • Develop a list mapping key stakeholders involved in the area of ICTs and smart water management.
  • Develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to assess the impact achieved through the use of ICTs in water-management systems.
  • Develop a set of methodologies for estimating the impact of ICTs on water conservation.
  • Identify water-management ICT applications and services with the potential to ensure interoperability and the benefits of economies of scale.
  • Draft technical reports that address standardization gaps and identify new standardization work items to be taken up by its parent group, ITU-T Study Group 5 (Environment and climate change).

The new Focus Group will work in close collaboration with the Focus Group on Smart Sustainable Cities (FG-SSC) established in February 2013 (read an earlier newslog article on the formation of FG-SSC here).

Learn more about ITU-T’s work on ICTs, the environment and climate change here.

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Monday, 10 June 2013 11:32:49 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The highly-anticipated video coding standard, ITU-T H.265 ‘High Efficiency Video Coding’ (HEVC), is now available free of charge on the ITU website here.

Recommendation ITU-T H.265 is a technically-aligned twin text with International Standard ISO/IEC 23008-2. The standard was developed within the Joint Collaborative Team on Video Coding (JCT-VC), a mechanism underscoring the longstanding collaboration of the ITU Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) and the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).

ITU-T H.265 will need only half the bit rate of its predecessor, ITU-T H.264 | MPEG-4 Part 10 ‘Advanced Video Coding’ (AVC), which remains the most deployed video compression standard worldwide. The new standard is designed to take account of advancing screen resolutions and is expected to be phased in as high-end products and services outgrow the limits of current network and display technology.

The development of ITU-T H.265 was led by ITU-T Study Group 16 (Multimedia) and the standard was approved by ITU members on 13 April 2013 (detailed in a press release here).

April also saw the approval of the latest edition of HEVC's predecessor, ITU-T H.264. Ten years old this year, ITU-T H.264 is now in its eighth edition and is available free of charge on the ITU website here. The latest edition contains an additional profile for multiview video coding with depth information (the Multiview and Depth profile) as well as additional colourimetry identifiers and improvements to supplemental enhancement information (SEI) messages.

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Monday, 10 June 2013 11:21:17 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

The ITU IPv6 IPTV Global Testbed has undergone a significant expansion with the connection of South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

CSIR's Meraka Institute is the country’s leading national ICT research institute and the main hub of SANReN (South African National Research Network), a large-scale government project that provides network connectivity between organizations specialized in higher education and research.

The international ITU IPv6 IPTV Global Testbed was established by ITU-T in collaboration with Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), Hokkaido Television Broadcasting (HTB) and OKI. The backbone to this international IPTV experiment is established through extended connectivity between SANReN and NICT’s IPv6 research network, JGN-X (Japan Gigabit Network-eXtreme).

Core ITU standards underpinning the experiment include Recommendation ITU-T H.721’s IPTV terminal for Video on Demand (VoD) and Linear TV, ITU-T H.762’s Lightweight Interactive Multimedia Environment (LIME) for interactive IPTV services, and ITU-T H.264’s video encoding. High-definition IPTV content encoded in H.264 is being delivered over IPv6 between CSIR and other testbed locations, interactively controlled by H.762 on H.721-compliant terminals.

The news marks the first-ever IPTV testbed in Africa. Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, will be the next location to join the project with preparations already underway between ITU-T Study Group 16 (Multimedia) and Rwanda’s proposed host of the testbed.

The ongoing expansion of ITU’s Global Testbed capitalizes on the success of a series of transcontinental IPTV experiments held over the past two years. For the second year running, ITU-standardized IPTV technologies were deployed in an international IPTV experiment held in conjunction with the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, 5-11 February 2013. Run over ITU’s IPTV IPv6 Global Testbed, the experiment was successful in its ambitious attempt to employ ten software-defined networks (SDNs) simultaneously.

IPTV services were used to live-stream scenes from Sapporo and to provide supporting Video on Demand (VoD) segments, accompanied by integrated social media tools and a remotely-provided captioning service. A particularly notable achievement was the use of RISE (Research Infrastructure for large-Scale network Experiments), a next-generation Internet based on OpenFlow, to deliver IPTV content to Singapore where IPv4 and IPv6 were combined virtually (Read the full story on the Sapporo experiment in an earlier newslog article here).

For more on ITU-T’s work on IPTV, please see ITU’s IPTV Global Standards Initiative.

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Monday, 10 June 2013 11:14:13 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Thursday, 06 June 2013

A free of charge workshop titled, “Intelligent transport systems in emerging markets – drivers for safe and sustainable growth,” will be held at ITU Headquarters in Geneva, 27 June 2013, to discuss recent advances in intelligent transport systems (ITS) with emphasis on improving road safety in developing countries.

The workshop is jointly organized by ITU and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and will draw a number of its participants from attendees of a meeting of UNECE’s Working Party 29 on Vehicle Regulations taking place in the Palais des Nations that same week.

The upcoming workshop will gather industry executives, policy makers, regulators and standardization experts from the automotive and ICT sectors to review movements in the ITS space in respect of its underlying technologies and applications as well as its emerging regulatory frameworks and standards. The event will discuss barriers to ITS adoption, explore how current obstacles might be overcome and focus on the benefits that ITS will afford emerging economies in improving road safety.

The event will be held during the eighth meeting of the Collaboration on ITS Communication Standards being held on 26 and 28 June 2013 at ITU Headquarters in Geneva. The Collaboration is providing a global forum for the creation of an internationally harmonized set of ITS communication standards to enable the deployment of fully interoperable ITS products and services in the global marketplace. The group expects that a first ‘release’ of ITS communication standards will be up for approval as ITU-T and ITU-R Recommendations in early 2015.

The ITU-UNECE workshop is the latest in a series of 2013 milestones in ITU’s work to improve the relationship between ICTs and road safety.

The Focus Group on Driver Distraction concluded its work in March 2013, producing five technical reports being taken up by the two groups leading ITU-T’s standardization work on driver distraction, ITU-T Study Group 12 (Performance, QoS and QoE) and Study Group 16 (Multimedia coding, systems and applications). News on the technical reports can be found here.

In addition, “ICTs and improving road safety” was the theme of the 2013 World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) celebrated at ITU Headquarters in Geneva on 17 May.

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Thursday, 06 June 2013 12:00:36 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

ITU members have approved a new set of algorithmic models to monitor the quality of streamed audiovisual media. The model algorithms set out in the new ITU-T P.1200 series provide objective models for non-intrusive monitoring of the quality of User Datagram Protocol (UDP)-based video services, addressing both lower and higher resolution applications such as mobile TV and Internet Protocol TV (IPTV).

A major challenge in the management of IP-based networks is the provision of adequate Quality of Experience (QoE) and Quality of Service (QoS) for new multimedia services and applications such as IPTV, 3D video, and Internet media including over-the-top (OTT) video.

ITU-T Study Group 12 (Performance, QoS and QoE) is the expert group responsible for the ITU-T P.1200 series which offers tools to assess video quality in a scalable manner; proposing quality estimation models which operate by analysing packet-header and bitstream information as available from respective packet-trace data.The ITU-T P.1200 models are ‘no-reference’ or ‘non-intrusive’ in that their primary quality prediction does not require prior knowledge of the audiovisual stream being transported, being based solely on information as it is available on the network or inside terminals.

Recommendation ITU-T P.1201 “Parametric non-intrusive assessment of audiovisual media streaming quality” provides an overview of algorithmic models for non-intrusive monitoring of the audio, video and audiovisual quality of IP-based video services based on packet-header information. ITU-T P.1201.1 and ITU-T P.1201.2 specify model algorithms for lower and higher resolution application areas, respectively.

Recommendation ITU-T P.1202 “Parametric non-intrusive bitstream assessment of video media streaming quality” complements ITU-T P.1201 with an overview of bitstream-based algorithmic models for non-intrusive monitoring of video quality based on packet-header and bitstream information. ITU-T P.1202.1 and ITU-T P.1202.2 specify model algorithms for lower and higher resolution application areas, respectively.

The ITU-T P.1201 models cover audio, video and audiovisual quality estimates while the ITU-T P.1202 models focus on video quality, but the key difference between the two Recommendations is that ITU-T P.1201 models are restricted to the use of packet-header information whereas ITU-T P.1202 models exploit further bitstream information such as coding-related information.

Consequently, ITU-T P.1202 models can be more accurate in their quality predictions but in turn require non-encrypted streams to enable access to payload information. In addition, ITU-T P.1202 models are more complex and thus demand more computational power.

The model algorithms specified by the ITU-T P.1200 series provide individual estimates of audio, video and audiovisual quality in terms of the 5-point absolute category rating (ACR) mean opinion score (MOS) scale (described in Recommendation ITU-T P.910). The models are also capable of producing diagnostic information on the causes of quality degradations, as different types of performance parameters are derived during model calculations.

The series will in the future be extended to include transmission control protocol (TCP) and OTT video (considering both adaptive and non-adaptive streaming), and another natural progression of this work will be towards the monitoring of the video and audiovisual quality of 3D video.

More information on the work of ITU-T Study Group 12 can be found here.

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Thursday, 06 June 2013 11:49:23 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Ahead of the United Nations General Assembly’s High Level Meeting on Disability and Development, 23 September 2013, stakeholders are encouraged to participate in a global consultation aimed at building an inclusive Information Society for all.

The consultation is a joint initiative from the Broadband Commission, the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ICT), the International Disability Alliance, ITU, Microsoft, the Foundation and UNESCO.

Read the full story on the ITU blog by Ambassador Luis Gallegos Chiriboga, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations Office in Geneva and Chairperson of G3ICT.

Thursday, 06 June 2013 09:46:35 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
 Tuesday, 04 June 2013

The ITU-T work programme database provides an up-to-date view on the Recommendations, Supplements, Technical Papers and other Study Group deliverables. Many customized reports are available.

Recently added was the capability to list items created within a range of dates and groups. The following URL is an example that allows for quick retrieval of all work items added to the ITU-T work programme in the last 90 days:

Tuesday, 04 June 2013 09:17:53 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #     |