Committed to connecting the world


ITU-T: Setting the standard

​​​​​​​​​We encounter ITU's international standards every day without knowing it. A hidden part of the information and communication (ICT) networks and devices we all use every day, ITU standards are rarely perceived by users but vital in enabling the interconnection and interoperability of ICT equipment and devices manufactured by hundreds of thousands of different companies around the world. ITU standards provide developers with a global market, enabling economies of scale in production and deployment that translate into benefits for users in both cost and functionality.

An estimated 95 per cent of international communications traffic runs over optical transport networks built in conformance with ITU standards. ITU standards define the Terabit-capable Optical Transport Network as well as advanced broadband access technologies such as 40-Gigabit-capable Fibre to the Home (NG-PON2) and, a standard taking broadband access speeds over traditional telephone wires beyond 2 Gigabits per second (Gbits/s). 

Video will account for over 80 per cent of all Internet traffic by 2020. The majority of this video traffic will be coded using international standards developed in collaboration by IEC, ISO and ITU. This collaborative work has been honoured with two Primetime Emmy Awards, the first in 2008 in recognition of ITU H.264 'Advanced Video Coding' and the second in 2018 in recognition of ITU H.265 'High Efficiency Video Coding'.

High priority has been assigned to ITU-T standardization work on the non-radio elements of IMT-2020 (5G) systems. Software-driven network management and orchestration continues to transform telecom operations. ITU-T's 5G work is supporting this transformation with the development of new standards for networking innovation, the evolution of the transport network, and environmental sustainability.

More than 50 cities worldwide are measuring their progress using 'Key Performance Indicators for Smart Sustainable Cities' based on ITU standards. ITU-T standardization work for the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities supports interoperability and efficient data processing and management. This work continues to build collaboration between standards developers and city leaders, helping smart city innovators to innovate efficiently and at scale.

Standards need standards-making bodies. ITU's Telecommunication Standardardization Sector (ITU-T) plays a crucial role in defining the core transport and access technologies that underpin communications networks around the world. Today's advanced wireless, broadband and multimedia technologies are all powered by ITU standards. 

Globally inclusive, market-driven standardization

ITU-T standardization work is driven predominantly by ITU's private-sector members. Industry players come together at ITU to develop voluntary international standards (ITU-T Recommendations) that meet their need for common platforms facilitating industry growth and innovation.

Over 300 ITU-T standards are released each year, resulting from the collaboration of thousands of experts that work year-round to develop the technical standards necessary to the cohesion of the global ICT ecosystem.

The principles underlying the ITU-T standardization process ensure that all voices are heard, that efforts to develop standards do not favour particular commercial interests, and that resulting standards have the consensus-derived support of the diverse set of stakeholders that comprise the ITU membership.

ITU-T successes in standardization are significant feats of international collaboration. These standards are developed by representatives of ITU's membership of 193 Member States, over 700 private-sector entities, and over 150 academic and research institutes.

The inclusivity of the ITU-T standardization platform – supported by the ITU Bridging the Standardization Gap programme – assists in offering all the world's countries equal opportunity to benefit from the ICT advances changing our world.

Learn more about the innovation supported by ITU standards in the infographic below.

Last update: May 2019​​