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ITU and its Activities Related to Internet Protocol (IP) Networks


Chapter Six: Internet-Protocol (IP) Related Activities in the ITU Strategy and Policy Unit

6.1              Introduction

The ITU Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU)[1] can be described as an internal ITU “think-tank”, carrying out forward-looking research and analysis of the rapidly changing telecommunications environment. SPU has two core missions:

  • To assist ITU’s management, particularly the Secretary-General, to fulfill the responsibilities outlined in the Constitution and Convention;
  • To assist ITU Member States and Sector Members, in both developed and developing economies, to understand and share technology, policy and regulatory experiences across a wide spectrum of government ministries, policy-makers and regulators, industry players, researchers and technical specialists, in order to make informed decisions on emerging technology, policy and regulatory issues.

Some of the Unit’s research and analysis and publication activities are carried out in support of programme activities (e.g. New Initiatives programme, TELECOM Forum, WSIS), whilst others are carried out in response to specific requests from Council (e.g. implementing Council and PP Resolutions, or staffing Council Working Groups or WTPFs[2]). All of the Unit’s activities are carried out in close cooperation with the Sector Bureaux and the ITU membership.

SPU has a small multidisciplinary staff with backgrounds in technology, business, economics, regulation and law. The working style is organized around projects and collaborative teamwork. SPU maintains extensive contacts with internal sector specialists from the Bureaux, government policy-makers and regulators, academics and the business sector. The Unit currently has two associate officer positions, fully funded by individual Member States under voluntary contributions, and an informal non-remunerated programme for visiting scholars, academics and young professional interns.

The SPU has focused on a range of topics that cut across the core activities of the three Sectors, including network security, competition policy, 3G licensing, policies for promoting broadband, Internet resource management and IP Telephony (see Sections 6.2 and 6.3).

The SPU publishes regular articles in ITU News (including the Strategy and Policy updates series). It publishes reports and CD-ROMs and maintains an extensive website with many articles, case studies, and resource materials as well as news feeds on ICT issues of high topical interest (e.g., broadband, VoIP, SPAM, security, etc.).[3] In addition, an electronic newsletter service disseminates the SPU’s activities both internally and externally, as well as providing an independent source of information with a global perspective.

In 1999, the ITU Council endorsed a series of new initiatives for the Union with the objectives of identifying emerging trends in the telecommunication environment, analysing their implications for ITU and its membership, preparing position papers and reports on issues of a strategic nature, and promoting the growth and expansion of the Internet and the Information Society. The New Initiatives Programme, which is managed by SPU, includes workshops, telecommunication studies, Internet policy activities and a regular research and publications programme.

6.2              Workshops

The principle goal of SPU workshops is to advise the ITU Secretary-General, in an informal manner, on new topics of a regulatory, policy or other nature that are of high current interest. Topics are principally selected and prioritized by ITU Member States and Sector Members. These workshops, which are reported on annually to the ITU Council, often cut across the work of the ITU Sectors and are conducted with a view to possible inclusion in the regular work programme of the Union.

The output of these workshops can be useful for policy-makers and regulatory agencies which are faced with new policy and regulatory challenges - particularly in developing countries. In preparation for each workshop, a background briefing paper and a series of country case studies are prepared, all of which are freely available on the SPU website. A background resources website is also created and a list of issues is prepared for discussion at the workshop. The output of each workshop typically takes the form of a chairman’s report.

Topics of workshops organized or planned since 1999 include:

  • Summer 2004 (Geneva): Countering SPAM;[4]
  • March 2004 (Seoul): Shaping the Future Mobile Information Society[5] (see Box 6.1 below);
  • February 2004 (Geneva): Workshop on Internet Governance;[6]
  • February 2004 (Geneva): Radio Spectrum Management for a Converging World;[7]
  • April 2003 (Geneva): Promoting Broadband;[8]
  • February 2003 (Geneva): Visions of the Information Society;[9]
  • November 2002 (Geneva): Competition Policy in Telecommunications;[10]
  • May 2002 (Seoul): Creating Trust in Critical Network Infrastructures;[11]
  • April 2002 (Geneva): Improving IP Connectivity in Least Developed Countries;[12]
  • December 2001 (Geneva): Multilingual Domain Names: Joint ITU/WIPO Symposium; [13]
  • November 2001 (Bangkok): The Internet in South East Asia;[14]
  • September 2001 (Geneva): Licensing Policy for 3rd Generation Mobile;[15]
  • May 2001 (Geneva): Regulatory Implications of Broadband;[16]
  • March 2001 (Geneva): World Telecommunication Policy Forum: IP Telephony;[17]
  • September 2000 (Geneva): Fixed-Mobile Interconnection;[18]
  • June 2000 (Geneva): IP Telephony;[19]
  • December 1999 (Geneva): Electronic Signatures and Certification Authorities.[20]

6.3              Publications and Reports

The SPU each year published a number of widely-cited publications, reports and databases that are likely to prove useful to policy-makers, regulators as well as industries and analysts in the sector.

For example, the latest report, “Birth of Broadband” was the fifth in the series of “ITU Internet Reports”, originally launched in 1997. This edition was specially prepared for the ITU TELECOM World 2003 Event, held in Geneva from 12 to 18 October 2003. As one of the ‘hot topics’ of the telecommunication industry in 2003, broadband was one of the highlights of last year’s show. The new report examines the emergence of high-speed, dedicated Internet connections that will greatly expand the world’s access to information. Broadband will also facilitate the long-expected convergence of three previously distinct technologies: computing, communications and broadcasting (an extract of the report concerning ITU technologies is in Chapter Seven: Case Study—How ITU’s Broadband Standards Improve Access to the Internet).

Other past report and publications include:

  • ITU Internet Reports 2002: Internet for a Mobile Generation;[21]  
  • ITU Internet Reports 2001: IP Telephony;[22]  
  • World Telecommunication Policy Forum (2001) - IP Telephony Country case studies;[23]
  • IP Telephony Workshop (2000) - Background paper;[24]
  • Multilingual Domain Names;[25]
  • Internet Diffusion in South-East Asia;[26]
  • Challenges to the Network: Internet for Development 1999;[27]
  • Challenges to the Network: Telecommunications and the Internet 1997;[28]
  • Competition Policy in Telecommunications;[29] 
  • Creating trust in critical network infrastructures.[30] 

A new Internet report entitled “Portable Internet” is under preparation for release at ITU TELECOM ASIA 2004 in Busan, Republic of Korea, in September 2004. This report will focus on the potential impact on the telecommunications industry of WiMAX-type technologies (see Section 2.10), known in Korea as “Portable Internet”.

Box 6.1: Shaping the Future Mobile Information Society

New Initiatives Workshop in the Republic of Korea Attracts Telecommunication Stakeholders

Geneva, 16 March 2004—An explosion in the use of mobile telephony has taken place within the last two decades. It has cut across geographic and socio-demographic criteria, with developing and developed countries alike witnessing staggering growth rates. Mobile lines overtook fixed lines on a global scale at the end of 2002. At the end of 2003, there were over 1.35 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, compared with only 1.2 billion fixed-line users.

The growing importance of mobile communications has a number of implications. Although ITU has been working on technical specifications for Internet and mobile networks, such as 3G’s IMT‑2000, for over a decade, this is the first time that it has convened a global meeting to examine the social and human considerations relating to the rapid development of this technology.

"Mobile phones are everywhere. The typical user carries one with them wherever they go, and would be hard-pressed to part with it. In this respect, the mobile phone has moved beyond being a mere technological object to become a key "social object", present in every aspect of our daily lives," noted Mr Roberto Blois, Deputy Secretary-General of ITU, who opened the workshop. "The question that is raised is how well equipped we are as a society, and as individuals, to live in a world of technological ubiquity? As we move towards a future in which the mobile phone may become the personal ICT device of choice, are the appropriate safeguards in place?"

The ITU Workshop entitled "Shaping the Future Mobile Information Society" was held in Seoul, Republic of Korea from 4 to 5 March 2004, and was hosted by the Ministry of Information and Communication. Some 50 experts participated in the workshop, representing a range of regulatory and policy-making agencies, mobile operators, service providers, academic institutions, futurologists, private firms, and others. Mr. Svend Kraemer, Head of Sector within the European Commission’s Information Society Directorate, chaired the meeting.

Two background papers were prepared for discussion at the workshop: "Broadband mobile communications towards a converged world" and "Social and human considerations for a more mobile world". In addition, a number of case studies were prepared covering country experiences in Japan, the Republic of Korea, Morocco and Norway. All meeting documents including case studies and presentations are available at: The experiences of a number of other economies was also presented, including Canada, Hong Kong (China), India, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Highlights of the workshop are at:


[2] See Section 1.4


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Updated : 2011-04-04