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Introduction to ITU-T Focus Groups and Recommendation A.7
  1. What are Focus Groups?
  2. Why would a Forum become an ITU-T Focus Group?
  3. What is the value added by Focus Groups to ITU-T and its membership?
  4. Can a Focus Group be created from scratch?
  5. Can an existing Forum become an ITU-T Focus Group?
  6. How long does it take for a Focus Group to be created?
  7. What are the formal steps to create an ITU-T Focus Group?
  8. What are the criteria for creation of Focus Groups?
  9. What is the expected lifespan of a Focus Groups?

What are Focus Groups? [back to top]

Focus Groups are an instrument in the ITU-T operational framework (specifically, ITU-T Rec. A.7) that allows for the creation of an "arms-length" entity that, with well-defined terms of reference, can operate with significant independence from its parent body (usually one of ITU-T’s technical working groups – known as Study Groups). This independence from the parent Study Group is materialized in several aspects:

  • Possibility to operate under different procedures
  • Different membership and eligibility rules
  • Different decision-making and approval process, management, meeting schedule
  • Different types of products (for example, technical specifications, reports, implementation agreements, etc)
  • Totally independent financing

In practical terms, this is an ideal way for working on cross-competency, short-term, focused work areas.

Why would a Forum become an ITU-T Focus Group? [back to top]

The answer to this question will vary from case to case. However, in general, the connection with ITU-T, one of the most well-recognized standards-setting organizations for telecommunications, will lend ITU-T’s prestige for quality, consensus-based standards to the products of this group. This relationship also allows an environment conducive to the progression, if desirable, of the products of the Focus Group, through the Study Group as ITU-T Recommendations, Supplements, Manuals, etc. Additionally, relationship with ITU-T will increase the acceptance of the specifications in many worldwide markets, in particular in developing countries and in the regions other than the ones with more active participation in the particular forum.

What is the value added by Focus Groups to ITU-T and its membership? [back to top]

In many significant cases, Fora and Consortia are formed to fill in gaps in the standardisation space. This happens for several reasons, beyond the scope of this text. However, the products of Consortia and Fora in many cases complement that of ITU-T’s Study Groups. The migration into a Focus Group of work that would be done outside ITU-T by Forums and Consortia would allow the ITU-T membership to benefit and influence these specifications, in particular in the cases when they are progressed into ITU-T Recommendations. This will also allow for possible greater penetration of the specifications in developing countries and areas other than the ones more involved with their generation.

Can a Focus Group be created from scratch? [back to top]

Actually, Rec. A.7 was created with this objective in mind: to allow the creation of short-term, task- or project-oriented groups be created for an efficient, low-overhead action in a certain area.

Can an existing Forum become an ITU-T Focus Group? [back to top]

Definitely, yes! The recent experience with the creation of the Full-Service VDSL Focus Group proves that an existing forum (in this case, the FS-VDSL Committee) can be very quickly be "transformed" into an ITU-T Focus Group. For the FS-VDSL Focus Group, the time elapsed between the request for creation of the group and its actual establishment was of about three weeks, even though the formal approval of the creation of the Focus Group by the "parent" ITU-T Study Group took 7 months. In any event, the Focus Group started its operation immediately after its creation. The Committee was in existence for about two years at the time of the Focus Group, and in order not to disrupt its technical work, the Committee’s financing scheme, structure, working methods and meeting schedule were adopted almost intact by the Focus Group.

How long does it take for a Focus Group to be created? [back to top]

It will vary from case to case, but if all the elements are present, a Focus Group proposed for creation by an ITU-T member can be established very quickly, ranging for example from a few weeks to couple of months, depending on the interest of the partners.

What are the formal steps to create an ITU-T Focus Group? [back to top]

According to the procedures for establishment of a Focus Group in Rec. A.7, Focus Groups can be created at a Study Group meeting, or in between Study Group meetings. During a Study Group meeting, having a proposal being received from any ITU-T member, the Study Group can formally approve the establishment of a Focus Group at the same meeting that the proposal has been received.

For the creation of Focus Groups between Study Group meetings, as the Study Group membership is not assembled, the creation of a Focus Group follows a two-step process. In the first step, a proposal is received by either the TSB of the Study Group management from any ITU-T member. The proposal in hand, the TSB Director decides in consultation with the SG management whether to follow provisions under clause 2.1.1/A.7 for the establishment of Focus Groups between study group meetings. These procedures require that a Focus Group Review Committee (FGRC) be established with the parent SG management, TSB Director, and TSAG Chairman. The FGRC is charged with reviewing the proposal for the Focus Group to ensure that the requirements of Rec. A.7 are met. With the agreement of the FGRC, the Focus Group can start its operations after the announcement of the creation of the groups is made available in the ITU-T web site and an email notification is sent to the participants of the ITU-T Study Group(s) concerned.

What are the criteria for creation of Focus Groups? [back to top]

The instrument that defines the Focus Group is ITU-T Rec. A.7. It specifies that some background information has to be provided to ITU-T, such as:

  • Identification of parent SG;
  • Relationship of the work to be performed with parent SG’s work programme as well as an assessment of the synergies with other ITU-T groups and other SDOs;
  • List of deliverables and timeline;
  • Realistic financing plan;
  • Definition of clear terms of reference with at least:
    • Mandate and specific topic;
    • Urgency
    • Draft working methods, e.g. organization (including leadership), membership, decision-making criteria and promotion.
    • Deliverables and timescales;
    • Relationship to parent Study Group, other Study Groups, and other SDOs.
  • Current membership (for an existing forum / consortium)

What is the expected lifespan of a Focus Groups? [back to top]

Focus Groups are created to work on well-defined topics and as a consequence are expected to complete their work in a short period of time, typically 9 to 12 months, following approval of its formation. In appropriate circumstances, and subject to the parent Study Group’s review and approval, the lifespan of a Focus Group may be extended.