Changes in ITU document approval

Changes in ITU document approval

William B. Gardner, AT&T

The International Telecommunication Union (formerly the Consultative Committee on International Telegraph and Telephone) has been besieged by the unprecedented technological, commercial and political upheavals in global telecommunications, in general, and in its standards approval procedures, in particular. To process standards quicker, the ITU has markedly changed its traditional document generation and authorization rules.

The ITU operates on a four-year study period. In the past, its recommendations (that is, voluntary standards) were not completed until the end of a study period. In practice, usually another year was needed to print and distribute the approved standards.

Obviously, this pace proved too slow to accommodate today`s numerous, fast-moving technological, product and service developments. In 1988, therefore, the ITU inaugurated its Resolution 2 procedure, which shortened the four-year document writing cycle to 18 months.

In the past, ITU recommendations for telecommunications were generated by the CCITT and for radio by the Consultative Committee on International Radio. The CCITT study groups met once or twice a year. The CCITT plenary convened every four years to approve the work done during the past study period and schedule the goals for the next study period.

In December 1992, a sweeping restructuring of the ITU transpired. The CCITT and CCIR acronyms were abolished, and sectors were initiated. For example, the Development Sector addresses the special needs of developing countries. This sector might prove challenging in its attempt to decrease cycle times should increased document translations become mandatory. Nevertheless, ITU`s commitment to the Development Sector was affirmed last year by the Buenos Aires Action Plan.

As telecommunications systems steadily grow more complex, the associated global standards similarly grow in bulk. For example, during the 1985 to 1988 study period, the ITU printed 150 million pages of documents--nearly 390 tons of paper.

The rapid growth in the amount of paper meant that electronic document handling is essential. The ITU Secretariat in Geneva has undertaken the use of electronic document processing and distribution.

The authority stakes are high for the ITU in its efforts to keep up with the explosion of telecommunications developments. If the organization is unable to supply acceptable standards in a timely manner, regional standards groups in Europe and the United States are willing to take over the process. If a takeover did occur, standards approvals would probably not be classified as global. q

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