ETSI establishes European standards
WILLIAM B. GARDNER
The establishment of the European Community (EC), or Common Market, generated the need for common telecommunications standards throughout Europe. Although the Conference on European Posts and Telecommunications (CEPT) had been issuing standards for years, manufacturers felt that they did not have enough input into the CEPT process. In 1987, the European Community Commission cited the need for a new standards body and, a year later, created the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI), which has its headquarters near Nice, France.
Presently, ETSI has 373 full members from 26 European countries. The membership also represents many countries that have not yet joined the EC. Included as full members are telecommunications manufacturers (56%), public network operators (15%), national administrations (10%), and private service providers and research bodies, among others (19%). The U.K. has the most members--88.
Full membership is reserved for organizations that "belong to one of the countries of Europe," which is interpreted to mean a significant presence, such as a manufacturing facility. For U.S.-based standards bodies, such as the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), a mere presence in the U.S.--a sales office, for example--suffices for membership.
Alternatives exist for some members who fail to meet ETSI`s requirements for full membership. For example, there are 14 associate members and 71 observers. Associate members may speak at the meetings, but both groups lack voting privileges. Inclusion of these types of memberships raises the number of countries represented from 26 to 30.
Sharing research results
ETSI is also a member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and has cooperative agreements for standards development with CEPT and the Comite European pour la Normalisation. The European Strategic Program for Research in Information Technology (ESPRIT) and Research in Advanced Communication in Europe (RACE) offer their research and development results to aid ETSI in the standards-creation process.
The ETSI staff organizes and manages more than 400 meetings per year for its 12 technical committees. For example, Technical Committee TM (transmission and multiplexing) has a Subtechnical Committee TM1 (transmission equipment, fibers and cables). This subtechnical committee comprises four working groups: WG1 (fibers, cables and passive optical components), WG2 (optical aspects of transmission systems), WG3 (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy and Asynchronous Transfer Mode transmission equipment) and WG4 (Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy multiplexers and crossconnect equipment).
When ETSI adopts European telecommunications standards, all of its members are required to advocate the standards at international meetings. Historically, when large regional standards bodies submit completed standards to international organizations such as ITU and the International Electrotechnical Commission, compromise on a single standard proves difficult. Consider, for instance, the struggle for worldwide interoperability of the Synchronous Optical Network and Synchronous Digital Hierarchy standards (see Lightwave, December 1995, page 48).
Moreover, ETSI is making a concerted effort to maintain good communications with other regional standards organizations. Officials of TIA, the American National Standards Institute and the Alliance for Telecommunication Industry Solutions regularly receive and accept invitations to attend ETSI`s Technical Assembly and General Assembly meetings in Nice. q
William B. Gardner represents Lucent Technologies, Norcross, GA, on several fiber standards committees. He received a B.S. from the University of Alabama and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, both in physics.