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Type: International Organization
Industry: ICT
Founded: 1865
Founder(s): United Nations
Headquarters: Geneva
Country: Switzerland
Facebook: ITU
Twitter: TwitterIcon.png@ITU_News
Key People
Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General
Malcolm Johnson, Director-ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau

ITU-T is the telecommunications standardization sector of the International Telecommunications Union, which is responsible for developing new standards and revising existing standards for the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, from core network functionality and broadband to next-generation services such as Internet Protocol Television (IPTV).

The standards developed by ITU-T are considered "Recommendations," as they are not mandatory unless they are incorporated as part of the national law of a particular government.[1] Currently, there are approximately 3000 active ITU-T Recommendations. The sector offers free Recommendations, which are accessible here.


Much of the ICU-T's work in the development of global ICT is meant to ensure that developing countries have accessibility to adopt international standards with fully integrated global communications operations for next generation networks (NGN), to build confidence and security in using ICTs, to develop early warning systems (emergency communication), and to reduce the impact of ICT on climate change and learn how to use ICT to lessen its effects.[2] The ICU-T's formal objectives are as follows:

  • Develop and publish global standards
  • Identify areas for future standardization
  • Provide an attractive and effective forum for the development of international standards
  • Disseminate information and know-how
  • Cooperate and collaborate with other organizations such as IETF, IEEE, ICANN etc.[3]

ITU-T Framework

The ITU-T framework is composed of the following:

  • World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA), which provides the overall guidelines, structure and policies for ITU-T. It is also responsible for creating study groups, appointing leaders and approving their specific work programs during their appointment.
  • Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) serves as the advisory body for working groups by forming guidelines and organizational working procedures for developing standards, resolving coordination problems within the study groups, and expanding their electronic working methods. TSAG also provides advise to the Director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), which provides logistical support for the study group.
  • Study Groups are responsible for developing standards in different areas. Some of the study groups within the sector include:
    • Study Group 2 - In charge in developing standards for in the operation aspects of telecom management, such as services, networks, and equipment. The Group was involved in creating the standards for ENUM, an IETF standard protocol used to enter E.164 numbers in the Domain Name System (DNS). Chairman: Ms. Marie-Thérèse Alajouanine.
    • Study Group 3 - Responsible for establishing standards for tariff and accounting principles in conjunction with telecommunication economic and policy issues, such as recommending the appropriate and reasonable global interconnection rates. Chairman: Mr. Kishik Park.
    • Study Group 5 - Evaluates the effects of ICT on the environment and climate change, providing guidelines for using ICT in an eco-friendly manner. Chairman: Mr. Ahmed Zeddam.
    • Study Group 9 - Conducts studies in the field of television, sound transmission, and integrated broadband cable networks. Chairman: Mr. Arthur Webster.
    • Study Group 11 - Focused on signalling requirements, protocols, and test specifications, which include defining standards on how to handle data and telephone calls in a network. Chairman: Mr. Wei Feng.
    • Study Group 12 - Develop standards to ensure that performance, quality of service (QoS), and quality of experience (QoE) are maintained in the ICT Industry. The group identifies new parameters such as packet loss and jitters and identifies the impact of communication services. The group recently developed and revised standards for the planning and deployment of IP-based networks. Chairman: Mr. Charles A. Dvorak.
    • Study Group 13 - Develops standards for Next Generation Networks and Future Networks. Chairman: Mr. Chaesub Lee.
    • Study Group 15 - Creates standards in the fields of optical transport networks and access network infrastructures, including broadband internet connections for over 600 million subscribers worldwide. Chairman: Mr. Yoichi Maeda.
    • Study Group 16 - In charge of developing standards for multimedia coding, systems, and applications, and is responsible for coordinating studies for the different study groups. Chairman: Mr. Yuishi Naito
    • Study Group 17 - Concentrated on establishing standards for the maintenance and enhancement of ICT security. Chairman: Mr. Arkadiy Kramer.
  • Workshops and Seminars. The ITU-T organizes free and open workshops and seminars for the public, provided by experts in the field.
  • Technology Watch, an initiative to evaluate the standardization needs of the ICT industry on new technologies and to provide updated reports.[4]

ITU-T Membership

ITU-T membership is open to those within the private sector who are interested in getting involved with enhancing the future and developing standards for the ICT industry in an open, fair, and transparent environment. Interested parties may join as:

  • Sector Members, who have unlimited opportunity to participate in the different ITU-T study groups, conferences, assemblies and have free electronic access to ITU-T documents.
  • Associate Members, who have the opportunity to work with a single study group and take part in preparing recommendations within the group, have access to documentation required by their work, and to serve as rapporteur.
  • Academia, open to universities and research institutes.[5]

ICANN Involvement

Representation in the ICANN Board

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was actively involved in the establishment of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers in 1998. It was one of the founding members of ICANN’s Protocol Support Organization (PSO) and a is member of the Government Advisory Council (GAC). ITU’s Standardization Sector (ITU-T) Deputy Director Reinhard Scholl is a member of the ICANN TLG (Technical Liaison Group) from 2008 to 2011. ITU-T, together with the ETSI, IAB and W3C, constitute the ICANN TLG. ITU-T TSB Director Houlin Zhao is a member of the Independent Panel Review (IRP) Nominating Committee.[6][7][8][9]

Reaction to the 2002 ICANN Reform

On February 24, 2002, former ICANN President Stuart Lynn issued a report regarding the situation of ICANN after having spent a year at its head. In his report, Lynn said that the organization needed reform due to structural weakness. The totally-private model of ICANN was not best suited for accomplishing its work effectively and efficiently as a global internet coordinating body, as critical stakeholder participation was minimal, funding was too small to provide the proper services, and it lacked support from national governments, representing the broad interests of their constituents. Lynn recommended that a new private-public partnership be established, with the core values of the organization preserved.[10]

ITU-T's TSB Director Houlin Zhao responded to Lynn’s report on April 17, 2002, acknowledging that the Lynn’s situational analysis with the current structure of ICANN was accurate. He believed that an extensive cooperation between the two organizations would be significant in achieving the proposed reforms for ICANN. According to Zhao, ITU-T was willing to help ICANN in the reform process through the following:

  • Assistance in addressing the issues and concerns of governments, ensuring that the sovereign rights and national interests are served, including the interests of private sectors if necessary.
  • ITU-T participation in the appropriate technical policy councils, such as the Technical Advisory Committee and the GAC, upon the creation of these bodies in the reformed ICANN. The ITU-T hoped to hold a special role in the future GAC to represent countries that were not directly participating in ICANN.
  • Collaboration with ICANN to identify the areas where cooperation between both organizations would be critical, such as ccTLD issues, .arpa domain issues, .int domain issues, and the development and administration of address policies for IP address and AS number allocation.
  • Work with ICANN to define and describe the boundaries for ICANN’s policymaking mission and incorporate the specialized skills of existing organizations such asthe ITU in an internationally-agreed restatement.
  • Further discussion with ICANN regarding its proposals and other issues of common interest.[11]

On July 25, 2002, Richard Hill from the ITU/TSB issued a clarification regarding Mr. Zhao's statement. Hill said that Zhao's paper was written after an informal consultation with ITU members. Both Member States and Sector members of the organizations unanimously supported Zhao's proposal to increase the cooperation between ICANN and ITU. However, Hill explained that Zhao failed to provide specifics in the proposal. Hill explained that the organization could only offer assistance to ICANN by specific request during the reform discussion. The details of the assistance would be agreed upon and approved by both organizations through the normal consultation and decision-making processes.[12]

Partnership with ICANN in hosting .int Worshop

A two-day workshop focusing on the .int TLD was co-hosted by ICANN and the ITU-T on September 15-16, 2003 in Geneva, Switzerland. The workshop was conducted based on ITU's Resolution 102 during the Plenipotentiary Conference in Marrakesh in 2002 in order to achieve the objective of developing a Recommendation for the management of the .int TLD. Francis Gurry, Assistant Director General and Legal Counsel of WIPO, and Paul Twomey, then-ICANN President and CEO, served as co-chairs of the event.[13] [14]

Joint ICANN/ITU-T ccTLD Workshop

On July 24, 2004, the ITU-T and ICANN partnered in hosting a workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, regarding the operations and issues affecting ccTLDs. The workshop served as an avenue for ccTLD operators including ITU Member States to share their experiences. The workshop complemented a previous workshop in March 2003 conducted by the ITU-T with its Member States regarding their experiences with ccTLDs. During the 2004 joint ccTLD workshop, former ICANN President and CEO Paul Twomey and TSB Director Houlin Zhao delivered opening statements. Michael Geist from the University of Ottawa presented on the model of operation and trends for ccTLDs. Representatives from ccTLD regional organizations also participated in the event, including Paul Kane from CENTR and Oscar Robles from LACTLD.[15]