ITU-T's Next Generation Networks (NGN) Global Standards Initiative represents one of the largest, most wide-ranging standardization projects ever undertaken. A truly global enterprise involving cooperative work between all leading standards-making bodies to define the networks that will deliver tomorrow's converged, broadband-based services, the project is led by ITU-T Study Group 13.
NGN packet-switched technology will soon replace the
traditional circuit-switched networks that have served as the basis of telephony since its inception. The result: seamless connectivity to high-speed services over any network, and any device, worldwide.
Touching on just about every aspect of performance and service delivery over a huge range of different network types, the size of the task can't be under-estimated, with a single meeting of Lead Study Group 13 regularly called upon to evaluate more than 500 technical proposals.
Examples of exciting new NGN applications include Telepresence - a set of technologies based on advanced video and audio codecs that will enable the transmission of high-definition images and CD-quality sound over huge distances. Telepresence vendors predict a billion dollar market for the technology, which will use emerging ITU-T multimedia protocols like H.325, anticipated around 2010 as the result of the Advanced Multimedia System project underway in Study Group 16, to deliver a highly realistic videoconferencing experience.
"NGN represents an unprecedented example of industry collaboration, bringing together every major player in the ICT sector to develop the standards needed for the advancement of the industry as a whole," says ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré. "We're rising to that challenge, and are well on track to lay the foundations of the next digital age."
Some early implementations of NGN are already up and running - BT's 21st Century Network began delivering services to subscribers in late 2006, and Korea, ever at the forefront of broadband developments, already has a significant proportion of subscribers using IP-based networks.
At the vanguard of tomorrow's technologies
ITU set up its NGN Focus Group in 2003 to define priorities and workplans encompassing all ITU-T and ITU-R Study Groups. The group produced a 900-page 'roadmap to NGN' outlining the high-level architecture frameworks for tomorrow's networks, which now serves as the to-do list for new standardization efforts in areas ranging from fixed-mobile convergence to IPTV and ubiquitous networks.
"NGN promises huge benefits for telcos and consumers alike, through bundled high-speed services comprising fixed and mobile telephony and Internet, and multi-channel IP-based TV. These offerings are cheaper, more powerful and more convenient - while offering carriers huge economies of scale by running all services over the same infrastructure," says ITU-T Director Malcolm Johnson.