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e-Flash Talks AAP With TSAG Chair
Gary Fishman, chairman of the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG), talks to the e-Flash about the alternative approval process (AAP), which has been described by some as the envy of the standards world.

AAP is a name that has stuck, according to Fishman, despite the fact it is now the normal rather than an alternative process because such has been its impact that the name has achieved brand name status among standards makers.

Fishman says that a key driver for AAP was the need for the private sector experts who were writing most of the standards to have a voice in their approval, and to eliminate time-consuming steps that did not add value to the finished product. Before AAP, a period of nine months - the time between Study Group meetings - would elapse before the final stages of the approval process could even begin. AAP eliminated that lost time to better meet the needs of an increasingly fast-paced telecommunications industry, he says. AAP is also built around the principle that Member States and Sector Members, acting together, are both fully engaged in the approval process. Another important achievement of AAP has been the saving of significant sums of money.

The first mention of the need for an alternative to the traditional approval process grew out of the Plenipotentiary Conference in Kyoto 1994, when a group was formed to look at reform of the ITU.

As Fishman points out, a change to the approval process was not to be taken lightly. This was a proposal to change an international treaty, and the needs and rights of the entire membership had to be taken into account.

Fishman: “Once there was an agreement incorporated in the ITU Convention at the Plenipotentiary Conference (Minneapolis 1998), the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) started work on developing the detailed procedures. This had to be done within an eighteen month timeframe in order to be able to submit the proposal to the Montreal, WTSA, 2000.”

The Convention stipulated that the alternative approval procedure could only apply to Recommendations that had no policy or regulatory implications. At first estimates suggested that this meant that the new procedures could be applied to around 70 per cent of Recommendations. However after a thorough analysis by Fishman, including consultations with all the Study Group Chairmen and a particularly the Study Group 2 chairman, he saw that 90 per cent was a more realistic estimate. Close scrutiny of Study Group 2’s output was necessary he says because SG 2 is home to many Recommendations that have policy or regulatory implications, as well as many that don’t, and often a simple analysis of titles is not enough to understand which case might apply. His estimate was pretty much on target.

Fishman says that the authoring process was started by looking at ways to remove procedures that took time and money yet added little or no value. He says that it was important to examine how to apply resources in a more effective way. For example, in the previous system many people had to fly around the world to attend physical meetings that turned out to be unnecessary: Delegates were required to attend meetings where they would simply sit and say nothing to indicate their unopposed agreement to a Recommendation. If there had been no change between the Study Group meeting that initiated the approval process and the Study Group's approval meeting nine months later, there was clearly time and money of the ITU and its members being wasted.

The authoring and building of consensus for the new process took a little over a year says Fishman: “In developing the procedures we relied to a certain extent on what was there, building on what was good. I broke down the process into five major steps or subroutines if you like. This meant that difficult areas were more easily identified, and dealing with them didn’t hold-up the rest. Once we had agreement on the principles and the framework of a process, we could start work on the detailed text. This was done partly by correspondence in between meetings of TSAG, and partly at the three TSAG meetings between the 1998 Plenipotentiary Conference and the 2000 WTSA.”

AAP has also ended the practice of sending paper copies of Recommendations to members for review. This is handled electronically now, in a much more orderly way according to Fishman. “It is now possible to immediately see, in one place, all Recommendations under AAP. Knowing that each AAP announcement occurs on the first and sixteenth of each month makes for a much more open and efficient process.”

Recommendations that have regulatory or policy implications, or for which there is a doubt continue to be treated under the former system, now called the Traditional Approval Process (TAP), because of the necessity in these cases to engage in a formal consultation with ITU Member States.


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Updated : 2006-01-30