2008 saw ITU win a Primetime Emmy award for its video codec ITU-T H.264. H.264 is the world's first truly scalable video codec, and is already used in cutting edge products like Apple's iPods and iPhone, as well as multimedia offerings from companies including Intel, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.
ITU has long been a star of the small screen, developing the initial global standards that launched High Definition TV (HDTV) and digital terrestrial broadcasting back in the 1990s.
Now, the world of broadcasting is about to be turned upside down yet again with IPTV - television delivered over IP-based networks, instead of over the airwaves.
With successful first generation IPTV services offered by many service providers worldwide standards are seen as a vital boost for next generation services where a customer may go into a shop, buy an IPTV box, call their network operator to sign-up, and then access services from a range of third party service providers.
ITU standards maximize interoperability across networks and markets worldwide. They cover the high-level architecture and frameworks service providers will need to put in place to rollout IPTV services. Topics such as IPTV quality of service (QoS), security, digital rights management (DRM), unicast and multicast, protocols, metadata, middleware and home networks are also covered.
Operators in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK have already launched local IPTV offerings; now, many are beginning to look outside their national territories, making international standards crucial.
The power to deliver TV services over IP networks is now paving the way for telcos to set themselves up as TV content providers - often in partnership with traditional broadcasters - delivering voice, Internet and video services over a single broadband link.
"In a market that once threatened to fragment into different regional approaches as telcos and equipment vendors clamoured for first-mover advantage, effective standardization through ITU is a vital step towards high quality products with value-additions, such as video-on-demand services that are widely expected to serve as a key market driver," notes ITU-T Director Malcolm Johnson.
The new IPTV Recommendations join a suite of many other ITU standards already developed for cable and hybrid networks relating to TV and sound broadcasting to the home. ITU-T is also working on new standards for large screen digital imagery (LSDI), which will be used to distribute HDTV to collective audiences in cinema-type environments.