ITU opens new channels of communication

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National and regional standards development organizations (SDOs) such as Committee T1, IEEE, and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) submit many technical proposals to the International Telecommunication Union's Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) to be included in ITU-T Recommendations. Traditionally, all technical proposals are first submitted to a U.S. Department of State process for review and approval for submission to the ITU-T.

However, there is also a need to communicate at earlier stages of the work, before a proposal has the industry consensus required for submission. By the time all the proposals submitted to the U.S. SDOs have been discussed, compromises reached, final text agreed to, and contributions approved for submission to the ITU-T, proposals from other parts of the world have also been submitted. At that point, national positions have become firm and further compromise becomes increasingly difficult at the international level.

To improve this situation, the ITU-T's Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG) recently approved procedures that will allow more open, two-way communication at all stages of work and work planning and allow referencing of completed standards developed by SDOs without the ITU-T having to duplicate the work.

ITU-T Recommendation A.6, "Cooperation and exchange of information between ITU-T and national and regional SDOs," defines procedures by which either an SDO or an ITU-T Study Group can request an exchange of information with the other body. The information exchanged would typically involve work being planned, work in progress, and schedules. It can also include, for information only, early drafts of proposed standards. Technical proposals to the ITU-T must still abide by the U.S. national preparatory process.

ITU-T Recommendation A.5, "Generic procedures for including references to documents of other organizations in ITU-T Recommendations," sets out procedures for ITU-T to include all or part of the material found in an approved standard produced by other bodies in an ITU-T Recommendation. Therefore, after appropriate consideration of the technical material, the ITU-T study group does not have to repeat the technical work.

Recommendation A.4 applies to communication with forums and consortia, such as IETF, in the same way that A.6 applies to communication with SDOs. This synergy will save time and resources for the ITU-T and its membership of almost 400 organizations and 189 countries. By invoking procedures of Recommendation A.5, the ITU-T will be able to adopt, without change, text, tables, and algorithms that have already been approved in groups such as T1, TIA, and IEEE.

At the meeting of TSAG last October, it was announced that Committee T1 and TIA had been "qualified" under Recommendations A.5 and A.6, and since then, IEEE also has been "qualified." These developments open the way for unprecedented opportunities for cooperation between these U.S. standards bodies and related ITU-T Study Groups.Th 07lw01

Gary Fishman is a technical standards director in the Global Strategic Stand ardization organization of Lucent Technologies. He is currently chairman of the ITU-T TSAG and can be contacted at tel: (732) 949-3401, fax: (732) 949-1196, e-mail:

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