Displaying items by tag: ITU

Telcos and OTTs shouldn’t be subject to same rules

Written on Tuesday, 26 September 2017 12:26

It’s no secret that telecom operators have struggled against the popularity of over-the-top (OTT) applications like WhatsApp and Skype, who have challenged traditional voice and SMS revenue streams. Some operators have called for regulators to subject OTTs to legacy telecommunications regulations in order to even the playing field. But such suggestions are misguided, according to the ITU.

Telecom operators are stuck in a predicament regarding OTT services who utilize their networks. They have little control over the growth of OTTs because users should be free to use the internet as they please. The network carrier only carries the IP packets from source to destination. They might be aware of the packets and their contents, but cannot do much about it. Carriers have had to roll with the punches and figure out how to adapt.

Ultimately, using VoIP (voice-over-IP) is a cheaper alternative to making expensive phone calls because the user doesn’t have to pay to use the dedicated phone line and instead utilizes an internet connection without any extra costs. As is the case with most VoIP services, calls made using the internet are often free while calls made to a cellular network require a payment. The advanced communication functions of modern smartphones have played a role in the rapid growth of OTT services.

The question is: what can network carriers do about it? Telecom carriers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue to VoIP services, statistics show. Some network carriers reacted, of course, by imposing restrictions on VoIP services. AT&T did this when Apple released its iPhone and the US telecom operator didn’t want its network being used for VoIP calling. AT&T lifted the block in 2009 after pressure from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

AT&T had an agreement with Apple to ban apps that would enable iPhone users to make phone calls using a wireless data connection. The scandal was revealed when the FCC requested that the companies explain why Google’s Voice app was rejected for the iPhone app store. The FCC was led to investigate if AT&T and Apple were colluding to prevent competition, sparking the beginning of a sour relationship between telecom providers and OTTs.

Can telcos come out on top?

For decades, telecom operators had free reign to charge rates for voice, data and SMS largely in excess of their marginal cost, which created a market ripe with innovation. The International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) recent report ‘The State of Broadband 2017’ highlights the struggle telecom operators have faced since that period began to wane, as online applications became increasingly popular with consumers around the world who wished to interact in ways not possible through traditional communications channels.

Communication has been transformed by the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Skype, WeChat, Google, WhatsApp and Viber. These OTT services have “transformed the way people build communities and search for information, and made valuable contributions to health, education, finance and entertainment,” ITU claims in the report. “Online applications now generate a significant proportion of the socioeconomic impact of digitization and utilization of the internet itself.”

The demand for OTT services has driven the telecom industry to a new era, and some telecom operators – in defense of their traditional revenues – have sought to “handicap” the growth of OTT players, the report suggests. It’s important to note, however, that these OTT services, however disruptive they may be, are driving demand for telecom operators’ broadband services. Without the content and services that OTTs provide, consumers would be less willing to pay operators for internet access, ITU claims.

“The operators’ complaints make as much sense as cable operators that sell access to cable channels complaining that people are watching too much TV, driving up the demand for their own services,” the report says, “Or a restaurant complaining that too many people want to eat its food driving up food costs. Operators sell access – not content – but people only want that access to use online content.”

Telecom operators, according to the report, claim they cannot invest in their networks because online OTT services have limited their ability to generate revenue. The ITU says this is “inaccurate” and “misguided”.

Some telecom operators have called upon regulators to apply the “same rules for the same service” by encouraging authorities to subject all online OTT services to legacy telecommunications regulations. ITU rejects this, emphasizing that OTTs don’t offer the “same service” as telecom operators, and that subjecting them to the same rules would be “entirely inappropriate”.

OTT services like Facebook and Google, for example, don’t provide equivalent services as telecom operators, the report points out. Operators provide access to the internet and some vertically integrated services that take advantage of, and are bundled with, general access. Online OTTs, on the other hand, provide interactive experiences for internet users that go beyond traditional voice and SMS, including payment services, chat services and photo/video sharing.

The fundamental differences between the telecom sector and online OTT services has led to the establishment of different rules, the report highlights. For instance, telecom regulations are intended to ensure that established operators – who own network infrastructure with high barriers to entry and face limited competition – do not use these privileges to the disadvantage of consumers. OTT services, by contrast, don’t control network infrastructure and must compete fiercely to retain customers who could easily be swayed.

There’s also the perception that OTT payers get a “free ride” on telecom network infrastructure which is financed by operators. But in truth, OTT players invest billions of dollars annually in a combination of physical facilities, according to the ITU, including data centers, fiber networks, servers and routers, which form an “essential part of the physical fabric of the internet”. In fact, according to the report, online OTT players invested an average of US$33 billion per year in infrastructure from 2011-2013.

ITU argues that telecom operators should recognize how much online OTT players drive consumers’ willingness to pay for internet access, which then provides more opportunities to generate revenue and finance new infrastructure. According to the report, consumers who demand the most data tend to spend more money on mobile contracts that feature high-speed data – revenue that goes directly to the telecom operators.

“Regulatory authorities do not have to choose directly between the interests of online application providers and telecom operators,” the ITU report concludes with. The most important aspects of internet usage that regulatory authorities should focus on, the report suggests, are adhering to customer needs, ensuring that the internet is widely available, and prioritizing connectivity, competition and innovation.

Published in Featured

SK Telecom and Nokia achieve significantly reduced latency

Written on Sunday, 10 September 2017 12:38

South Korean telecom provider SK Telecom and Nokia have successfully reduced latency between handset and base station to 2 milliseconds over SK Telecom’s network, the company announced on September 4.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) states that technologies designed for 5G need to deliver a peak rate of up to 20Gbps under ultra-low latency of 1 millisecond. Therefore, with the successful demonstration, SK Telecom moves closer to realizing 5G.

The latency between the handset and base station in the existing LTE environment is around 25 milliseconds, according to SK Telecom. While the round-trip latency of 25 milliseconds can support two-way communication services like remote learning, it is not low enough to seamlessly provide services that require real-time transmission of data such as autonomous driving and telemedicine.

Against this backdrop, the newly developed 2 millisecond latency technology is expected to facilitate the development of diverse real-time services – e.g. autonomous driving, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) services – which will become widespread in the 5G era.

For instance, with a latency of 25 milliseconds, upon sending a stop signal to a self-driving vehicle running at 150 kilometers per hour, the vehicle travels about one meter further before it actually begins to decelerate. However, with the 2 millisecond latency technology, the vehicle moves only 8 centimeters before it begins to slow down, which will significantly enhance the overall safety in autonomous driving.

Moreover, the low latency communication technology can support services that require real-time monitoring of remote sites and control of equipment such as disaster relief robot, and will also contribute to the growth of next-generation media services like 360° VR.

SK Telecom and Nokia dramatically reduced the latency between LTE handset and base station by applying Uplink Pre-Scheduling, a technology that enables the handset to immediately transmit data to the base station, and short Transmission Time Interval (TTI), a technology that reduces data transmission time between base station and handset to about 1/7. The companies will continue to work together to reflect the short TTI technology to the 3GPP global standards.

“Low latency technology is essential in realizing 5G services such as autonomous driving, artificial intelligence and virtual reality services,” said Park Jin-hyo, Senior Vice President and Head of Network Technology R&D Center of SK Telecom. “We will continue to improve our low latency technologies to achieve 5G evolution, while applying the latest technologies to our LTE networks to further enhance customer experience.”

Published in Telecom Operators

Cybersecurity is once again under intense scrutiny and focus following a spate of recent hacking scandals and crises which have engulfed the ICT sector. The global ransomware attacks served only to show that many nations are still extremely vulnerable to cyber-attacks which can completely destabilize major organizations and institutions, such as the NHS in the UK, which is a high-profile victim of the recent ransomware attack.

However, a survey conducted by the ITU on cybersecurity has once again unearthed some worrying statistics over the practices and defenses some of the world’s leading countries have in place to combat the on-going cyber-threat.

The UN revealed that Singapore has a near-perfect approach to cybersecurity, but alarming many other economically prosperous countries have holes in their defenses, and some poorer countries are showing them what approach they should adopt when it comes to cybersecurity. According to the ITU, wealth breeds cybercrime, but it does not necessarily generate cybersecurity, so it has insisted that governments must ensure they are prepared for attacks at any time.

A spokesman for the ITU survey said, “There is still an evident gap between countries in terms of awareness, understanding, knowledge and finally capacity to deploy the proper strategies, capabilities and programs.”

Singapore came out on top of the ITU’s Global Cybersecurity Index survey, and whilst the United States was ranked second, many other high profile and influential countries were rated poorly, lagging behind many developing nations and economies.

The rest of the top 10 were Malaysia, Oman, Estonia, Mauritius, Australia, Georgia, France and Canada. Russia ranked 11th. India was 25th, one place ahead of Germany, and China was 34th. It was disclosed that ranking was based on each countries’ legal, technical and organizational institutions and their research and educational capabilities. In addition to this, their cooperation in information-sharing networks was also examined.

The ITU added, "Cybersecurity is an ecosystem where laws, organizations, skills, cooperation and technical implementation need to be in harmony to be most effective. The degree of interconnectivity of networks implies that anything and everything can be exposed, and everything from national critical infrastructure to our basic human rights can be compromised."

The ITU also stressed the critical importance of adopting and implementing a national security strategy, but added that 50% of countries have none. Amongst some of the countries that placed higher than their economic development was 57th placed North Korea;  however, it’s been suggested they were let down by its cooperation score, but still ranked three spots ahead of the much-richer Spain.

The smallest rich countries also scored badly - Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino were all well down the second half of the table. The Vatican ranked 186th out of 195 countries in the survey. But no country did worse than Equatorial Guinea, which scored zero.

ITU commends Huawei for driving innovation in Africa

Written on Tuesday, 02 May 2017 13:15

The International Telecom Union (ITU) has praised Huawei Technologies, for driving innovation in Africa.

“With the vision of bridging the digital divide, Huawei has never ceased in driving innovation and development in the industry,” said Andrew Rugege, Regional Director of the International Telecommunication Union, the regional office for Africa.

“Together, we can build a better connected Africa and I hope that Huawei can become partners with us to make this happen. It is not only a sponsor but also a potential future employer with 18 years’ of experience in Africa,” said Rugege at the ICT day held at the headquarters of the African Union on Thursday.

Since 2016, the Chinese multinational company has been one of the main architects of the ICT sector in Ethiopia. “Huawei and ITU are long-term strategic partners and our cooperation and support will remain the same," a representative from Huawei said.

The Information Communications Technology (ICT) day, a United Nations endorsed initiative marked to highlight the need of more women in the IT sector, was held on Thursday, April 28th as part of the International Girl in ICT day.

Ethiopia has been observing and marking the worldwide held event  for a number of years and to date, thousands of young women has taken part in more than 7,000 celebrations of international Girls in ICT day in 160 countries worldwide.

The gatherings included informative panels, discussions, networking opportunities, from leaders in the industry, potential mentors and representatives of companies and a slew-of-speakers including, the minister of Women and Children Affairs and the Minister of Communication and Information Technology.

An initiative of the UN Women, UNDP, the European Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union Commission, with the cooperation and support of Huawei Ethiopia, the gathering brought hundreds of local attendees as well as delegates from a number of African countries.

Keiso Matashane-Marite, social affairs officer at the UNECA was at the celebration and expressed the importance of the initiative and the day. “Today is a special day and it belongs to the girls,” she said. “As ECA, we are happy to be highlighting the importance of why girls should be involved in ICT, raising awareness and encouraging our girls to consider careers in IT.”

According to various reports, there is an increasingly marginalized African women populations in the IT and Science sectors, with most women still involved in informal labor intensive jobs across the continent.

Published in Telecom Vendors

Google’s Project Loon has come to a halt in Sri Lanka. This project beams internet to remote areas of the world via balloons, abandoned on the island nation, according to a minister. Sri Lanka regulators have been unable to allocate Google a radio frequency for the airborne project without breaking international regulations.

Project Loon uses roaming balloons to beam internet coverage to areas of the world lacking adequate connectivity. Google wanted to move ahead with connecting Sri Lanka’s 21 million people to the internet, even those in remote connectivity blackout areas. The project uses giant helium-filled balloons which act as floating mobile base stations, beaming high-speed internet down to ground-based telecom towers.

But Communications Minister Harin Fernando says the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union (ITU) did not approve of Google using the same frequency as Sri Lanka’s public broadcasters to provide its internet services.

“It boils down to a legal issue,” said Fernando in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. “The government, as well as Google, are lobbying the ITU, but if we fail there’s a risk Google will go to another country that is not bound by these rules.”

The first of three balloons – which roam the stratosphere at twice the altitude of commercial aircraft – entered Sri Lankan air space a year ago after going airborne in South America.

The government and Google planned a joint venture where Colombo would receive a 25 percent stake, without any capital investment, for sharing its cellular spectrum with the project, AFP reported. One of the balloons was found in a Sri Lankan tea plantation after its maiden test flight last year, although authorities described it as a controlled landing.

Around one-third of Sri Lankans have regular access to the internet, a figure expected to swell through the Loon project. It was the first country in South Asia to introduce mobile phones in 1989, and also the regional frontrunner when it unveiled a 4G network three years ago.

Published in Infrastructure

In its recent ‘State of Broadband 2016’ report, the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says the increasing divide between the connected world and the un-connected world is worrying. According to the report, more than half the world’s population does not use the internet because of high broadband costs and inaccessibility. The report further touches on the fact that 3.9 billion people do not have home or mobile internet access, and that the problem is most prominent among the groups including “females, elderly, less educated, lower income and rural (populations).”

In its report, ITU indicates that it’s vital to bring unconnected people online to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in the digital economy and access all the information opportunities that the internet can provide in the workforce, education, etc. Increased connectivity also plays into achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2020, as the internet has the power to enrich people’s lives. In fact, the ITU’s ‘Connect 2020’ targets call for 60% of the world’s population to be online by 2020, which is equivalent to bringing 1.2 billion people online over the next four years, according to the report.

One of the problems that have been raised by ITU in seeing its goals reached is that fixed-broadband access is too expensive. Even though the cost of it has dropped over the last decade, it remains “clearly unaffordable” in many of the world’s poorest countries, says ITU. Stats show that in 2008, the average price for a basic fixed-broadband connection around the world was $80 per month, which decreased to $25 a month a year later. Progress is being made, but in poorer countries, a fixed-broadband monthly package with just one gigabyte of data (roughly the amount needed to download an average movie) still costs more than half of an average annual salary. 

A solution to expensive broadband, according to the report, is mobile internet access. Mobile-broadband networks cover about 84% of the world’s population. But the main barrier facing extensive use of mobile-broadband is the expensive cost of handsets, as opposed to the price of a monthly subscription package. “In 2016 people no longer go online, they are online,” says the report. “Yet many people are still not using the internet, and many users do not fully benefit from its potential.”

3.9 billion people offline is a large number, but those people are considerably concentrated in certain areas, says the report. The United States features in the top 20 countries with the largest offline population at #15. Overall, the top 20 countries on the list account for around 75% of the total global offline population. The top three countries include India, China and Indonesia, which account for 46% of the offline population in the world; while Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria add to the list, collectively contributing to 55% of the world’s offline population.

“Interestingly, two of the top three countries for the total numbers of people offline are also the top countries for the total number of people online,” says the report. “With an estimated 277 million internet users, India has now overtaken the U.S. to become the world’s second largest internet marker, second only to China.”

In order to increase digital access globally, the UN agency says it needs better data about who is being shut out of the information technology world. In the report it explains, “A data revolution is needed to better understand who uses the internet, where and how.” Addressing the problems with the data set that has been predominate for years, ITU highlighted that mobile phone subscriptions – long cited as a connectivity indicator – no longer reliably reflected actual mobile phone use.

While there are nearly as many mobile subscriptions in the world as there are people, in some regions, up to 40% of people do not own or use a mobile phone, according to the report, suggesting the huge number of people with multiple subscriptions has skewed the data. In fact, Ericsson’s November 2016 Mobility Report says the number of mobile subscriptions exceeds the population in many countries, “which is largely due to inactive subscriptions, multiple device ownership or optimization of subscriptions for different types of calls.”

ITU forecasts that the total number of mobile-broadband and subscriptions will reach 3.6 billion by the end of 2016, while almost half of all mobile subscriptions are already broadband-enabled. The difference between mobile-broadband adoptions in developed vs. developing countries is highlighted in the report: the technology is popular in developed nations because of its convenience, whereas in developing nations, “chronic lack of fixed telecommunications infrastructure makes mobile more a platform of necessity, rather than choice.”

Tech giants Facebook and Google have made moves to bridge connectivity division by using satellite and drone technology. Internet access in Africa is limited by a lower penetration rate when compared to the rest of the world. Internet penetration was only 28.6 percent in 2015 compared to the world average of 46.4 percent, according to Internet World Stats. In an effort to expand connectivity in Africa, Facebook partnered with French satellite company Eutelsat on a new initiative that will leverage satellite technologies to get more Africans online.

Under a multi-year agreement with Spacecom, the two companies will utilize the entire broadband payload on the future AMOS-6 satellite and will build a dedicated system comprising satellite capacity, gateways, and terminals. In providing reach to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Eutelsat and Facebook will each be equipped to pursue their ambition to accelerate data connectivity for the many users deprived of the economic and social benefits of the internet. This initiative will be followed by a Eutelsat standalone satellite to be launched in 2019 that will enable Eutelsat to broaden its African footprint for broadband services.

Scheduled for start of service in 2017, the Ka-band payload on the AMOS-6 geostationary satellite is configured with high gain spot beams covering large parts of West, East and Southern Africa. The capacity is optimized for community and Direct-to-User internet access using affordable, off-the-shelf customer equipment.

According to the terms of the agreement, the capacity will be shared between Eutelsat and Facebook. Using state of the art satellite technology, Eutelsat and Facebook will each deploy internet services designed to relieve pent-up demand for connectivity from the many users in Africa beyond range of fixed and mobile terrestrial networks.

Moreover, Facebook is building solar-powered drones which will fly for months at a time above remote regions, beaming down an internet connection. The project began when Facebook purchased a small British business called Ascenta, which specializes in solar-powered drones. Ascenta’s owner, Andy Cox, is the engineer running what has been dubbed ‘Project Aquila’.

A similar project by Google, called ‘Project Loon’, uses high altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 18km to create an aerial wireless network with up to 4G-LTE speeds. The project aims to connect people to the internet in the same remote regions that Project Aquila is targeting. A special internet antenna is attached to a building which connects to the balloon above. The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, then to a ground-based station connected to an internet service provider (ISP), then onto the global internet.

 

Published in Featured

ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICT). The organization is given life by a membership of 193 Member States and over 700 private-sector entities and 120 academic and research institutes. Its membership-driven work is supported by a secretariat based in Geneva. Chaesub Lee, Director of Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, ITU, discusses ITU standardization in the following interview, as well as ITU’s latest achievements, and looking ahead to 5G.

Can you give us an introduction to ITU and its work?

ITU was established in 1865 to meet the need for international standards for telegraph systems. From the day of the telegraph, through our formative role in telecommunications, and in today’s converged ICT ecosystem, ITU has offered a neutral platform to broker consensus on policy and technical questions of common global concern.

ITU is responsible for the global coordination of satellite orbits and radiofrequency allocations. We develop international standards that underpin the interconnection and interoperability of ICT networks, services and devices. And we complement this technical work with capacity building in the application of advanced ICTs.

How are ITU standards conceived and agreed? Is an intergovernmental agency such as ITU the right place to set standards to be followed by the fast-paced ICT sector?

ITU is unique among UN agencies in that, in addition to governments, our membership also includes leading private-sector players and academic and research institutes. Our private-sector members include the telecommunications carriers that build and operate the infrastructure that forms the backbone of the global ICT ecosystem. And in recent years we have welcomed digital service providers such as Alibaba, Netflix, Facebook and Google as new ITU members.

Our technical standardization work is driven predominantly by our private-sector members. Standardization experts representing leading private-sector players come together on the ITU platform to develop the international standards demanded by the market as common platforms for growth and innovation.

Our contribution-led standardization process is beholden to longstanding commitment to consensus-based decision-making. Standardization work on a particular subject is initiated in response to contributions from ITU members if the membership reaches consensus on the inclusion of that subject in ITU-T’s work plan. Similarly, the standards developed as a result are only approved when ITU’s membership reaches consensus on their composition.

ITU standards are voluntary technical standards – conformance to our standards is not mandatory unless such conformance is mandated by regulation. Despite their implementation being voluntary, the approval of ITU standards by consensus ensures the buy-in of all stakeholders, which increases the likelihood of these standards which will be implemented worldwide.

What is the relevance of ITU standards to modern communications systems?

There are over 4000 standards in use in modern ICT infrastructure. Year 2016 alone has seen the delivery of nearly 400 ITU standards. Estimates suggest that 95 percent of international traffic runs over fiber optic infrastructure built in conformance with ITU standards. ITU standards for digital certificates and the broader public-key infrastructure were critical to the rise of e-commerce, and our standards remain essential to the high-speed exchange of financial information. Our standards also underpinned the critical access technologies of the internet, at first with V-series modems and now via broadband DSL and FTTH. 

Many estimates suggest that video accounts for over 60 percent of internet traffic, a figure expected to rise to over 80 percent by 2018. The Primetime Emmy award-winning ITU H.264 ‘Advanced Video Coding’ remains the most deployed video codec worldwide. Its successor, ITU H.265 ‘High Efficiency Video Coding’, will help ease the burden on global networks, increasingly geared towards the massive exchange of video traffic.

Take for example your smartphone, ITU standards are crucial to the long-haul fiber optic transport networks that form the backbone of the global ICT ecosystem; we provide phone numbers, signaling protocols and codecs for voice and video and we also manage the radio spectrum in which the smartphone operates.

What is the main value proposition of ITU standardization? In other words, what attracts companies to develop standards on the ITU platform?

The principles underlying the ITU standardization process ensure that all voices are heard, that our standards efforts do not favor particular commercial interests and that resulting standards have the consensus-derived support of the diverse set of stakeholders that comprise the ITU membership. This inclusivity of ITU’s standardization platform – supported by our Bridging the Standardization Gap program – assists in offering all the world’s countries equal opportunity to benefit from the ICT advances changing our world.

Joining ITU offers companies the opportunity to work together with technical experts representing stakeholders from both developed and developing countries, setting standards that help to build global markets. 

You mention a program to “bridge the standardization gap”. What are the aims of that program?

ITU standardization has a development dimension unmatched by other standards bodies. Our Bridging the Standardization Gap (BSG) program is our vehicle to improve the capacity of developing countries to participate in the development and implementation of international ICT standards. The ultimate goal of our BSG program is to support national standardization experts in meeting their potential to become international standardization experts.

Participation in ITU standardization work helps countries to ensure that their priorities are addressed by ITU standards. Participation also results in expert knowledge of our standards, knowledge of great value to developing countries in their work to implement ITU standards effectively.

It is crucial that ITU standardization encourages knowledge and technology transfer. Newcomers to ITU learn from experienced delegates how to participate in international standardization most effectively. We support this sharing of knowledge by offering training courses in effective participation in the ITU standards-development process. These courses aim to improve delegates’ capacity to engage in debate using well-constructed arguments, helping them to build the consensus essential to the development and approval of ITU standards.

What are some of the latest achievements of ITU standardization?

ITU-T is a renowned centre of excellence in standardization for transport and access systems and multimedia.

ITU members recently concluded a three-year process to enable optical transport at rates higher than 100 Gbit/s, meeting industry demand for increased capacity in metro and long-haul transport networks to support the unceasing growth of video and data traffic.

We recently achieved an industry first in broadband access with the completion of for 40-Gigabit fibre to the home (FTTH), an achievement coming in parallel with the release of a new standard for 10 Gigabit symmetric FTTH. ITU’s suite of access solutions also includes G.fast, an ITU broadband standard that allows delivery of up to 1 Gbit/s over the traditional telephone lines that still make up a substantial proportion of so-called “last-mile” networks.
ITU H.265 ‘High Efficiency Video Coding’ – the successor to the Primetime Emmy award-winning ITU H.264 ‘Advanced Video Coding’, which we see at play in almost all HDTV offerings – offers double the compression power of H.264 provide the platform for the next decade of innovation in video.

A new ITU standard defining the requirements for 4G mobile high quality voice communications has joined ITU’s portfolio of standards to assist operators in their work to offer services of the quality necessary to attract and retain customers in today’s competitive business environment. 

Smart cities are a key application area for Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and we recently released a set of standardized key performance indicators for smart sustainable cities. ITU is engaged in a two-year pilot project with various cities around the world to implement these indicators, which will ensure that any future refinement of these indicators is undertaken on the basis of cities’ experiences with their implementation.

We have also released a key standard for personal health systems, supporting the development of medical-grade e-health devices that can help the prevention and improved management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

How has so-called ‘convergence’ impacted ITU’s standardization work?

The distinction between different segments of the ICT industry is not nearly as clear as it once was, and the sliver of difference that remains is dissipating fast. ICT also plays a key role in driving the convergence of industry sectors, and ITU continues to play a central role in enabling this telecom-based convergence.

ITU led several key areas of convergence within the telecom domain, such as data-voice convergence with next-generation networks (NGN), fixed-mobile convergence and telecom-broadcasting convergence with Internet Protocol TV (IPTV).

With respect to the convergence of industry sectors, the ICT sector has gained a diverse range of new stakeholders as other industry sectors continue to scale-up their use of ICTs as “enabling technologies”. ITU standardization work is mirroring these bi-directional movements. The wide array of industry sectors now in demand of ICT standards continues to draw great value from ITU. For example, the scope of ITU standardization has expanded to include the development of ICT standards to support e-health, smart grid, smart water management, intelligent transport systems and smart city.

Since your election as TSB director, in what way have you contributed to enhancing the value of ITU standardization?

I have encouraged our members to be bold in using the ITU platform to launch new standardization work and to strengthen ITU’s efforts to bridge the standardization gap between developed and developing countries. I am pleased to say that our members have done exactly that.

ITU members are engaged in a new standardization effort to define the principles of a trusted ICT environment, one that will be integral to the achievement of our priorities in the spheres of 5G, IoT and smart cities.

In 2015, our members established a new standardization expert group – ITU-T Study Group 20 – to develop standards for IoT and smart cities. The formation of the new ITU-T Study Group 20 has contributed to the consolidation of over 10 years of ITU activity in IoT standardization and the group’s work targeted towards smart cities will provide valuable stimulus to this key IoT application area.

Our Focus Group on network aspects of IMT-2020 (5G) has undertaken a preliminary study into the wireline networking innovations required to support the ambitious performance targets of 5G systems. This group has undertaken in-depth studies into areas such as network ‘softwarization’ and slicing, emerging networking technologies, mobile backhaul and fronthaul, and end-to-end quality of service (QoS).

In the framework of the WTSA, what plans are you working on achieving? Why is this event of a great importance for the telecoms industry?

The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) is held every four years for ITU members to refine the strategic direction of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T). At WTSA-16 in Hammamet, Tunisia, from 25 October to 3 November, ITU members will review ITU-T’s structure, working methods and mechanisms for collaboration with other standards bodies, SMEs and open-source communities, and the many vertical sectors applying ICTs as enabling technologies.

WTSA-16 is an opportunity to ensure that ITU standardization remains well positioned to support the development of the information society. The decisions of the Assembly will ensure that ITU-T provides its members with a standardization toolkit optimized to assist government, industry and academia in achieving their ambitions for year 2020 and beyond.

In this sense, the task of WTSA is to reshape ITU’s standardization platform in line with the evolving demands of the telecommunications and ICT market, demands including the need to support technological and industrial convergence. WTSA is the best platform to achieve this, with its agreements incorporating the views of a globally representative set of stakeholders.

What kind of opportunities does the WTSA provide to experts in the ICT sector?

Member States’ delegations to WTSA include representatives of industry, academia and civil society, ensuring that delegations include technical experts well-versed in the latest movements of ITU standardization. WTSA offers standardization experts the opportunity to campaign for their priorities to be reflected by the international standardization agenda, giving them a voice in ensuring that the ITU standardization platform continues to meet their needs.

When it comes to the 2020 plan, what are the future measures that you will be taking in the upcoming four years?

The years approaching 2020 will be a pivotal period in the development of the global ICT ecosystem. We will see 5G systems beginning to take shape, and investments in long-lived urban infrastructure will incorporate investments in ICTs to build IoT-enabled smart cities. ITU is supporting the ICT community in its work to create a post-2020 environment where we will all have access to affordable, reliable communications; where highly-reliable ICTs will be core to innovation in all industry sectors.

In the approach to 2020, ITU standardization will be guided by three interdependent priorities. We will support 5G systems with the necessary innovations in network infrastructure. We will work to ensure that IoT technologies and applications meet their full potential, particularly in the context of smart cities. And we will define the principles of a trusted ICT environment and the technical mechanisms required to achieve it.

How can you describe the bureau’s role in solving pending issues in the ICT sector, especially those related to the challenges of the 5G and the use of big data in smart cities?

When speaking of 5G, we are speaking of a huge leap beyond 4G. Wireless communication in the 5G era should match the speed and reliability achieved by fiber-optic cables. The application fields of 5G technologies, in addition to voice and video, range from industrial robotics to automated driving, remote medical surgery, virtual reality and much more.

Recognizing that today’s network architectures simply cannot support the envisaged capabilities of 5G systems, ITU members established the ITU-T Focus Group on network aspects of IMT-2020 to undertake a preliminary study into the wireline networking innovations required to enable the 5G era. The ITU-T standardization work to build on the findings of this Focus Group will offer valuable support to the ICT industry in ensuring that wireline and wireless elements of 5G systems work in harmony.

With respect to Big Data in smart cities, our increasing ability to capture and analyze data generated by smart city systems will help us to identify where and how innovation can contribute to greater efficiency and sustainability. However, this will demand an integrated data ecosystem. We cannot allow data “silos” to emerge in different sectors. For this reason, one of the priorities in ITU standardization work for IoT is to develop mechanisms for smart city operation that ensure the interoperability of IoT applications and datasets employed by various vertical sectors.

In light of the current debate on 5G standards, can you tell us some details about the 5G frequency allocation in different countries?

Looking towards 2020, one of the highest profile areas of ITU work is our standardization of 5G systems. In 2012, ITU established a program on “International Mobile Telecommunications for 2020 and beyond (IMT-2020)”, providing the framework for 5G research and development worldwide. Our members have defined the framework and overall objectives of this standardization process, as well as the roadmap to guide this process to its conclusion by 2020.

ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector, ITU-R, is coordinating the international standardization and identification of spectrum for 5G mobile development. ITU-R is applying the same process used to coordinate the standardization of IMT-2000 (3G) and IMT-Advanced (4G) systems, a process with a proven track-record of success and reliability befitting its importance.

ITU’s Standardization Sector, ITU-T, will play a similar convening role for the technologies and architectures of the wireline elements of 5G networks, using the launching pad provided by the ITU-T Focus Group on network aspects of IMT-2020.

Published in Interviews

Singtel Optus and Nokia to collaborate on 5G in Australia

Written on Thursday, 06 October 2016 06:11

Singtel’s Australian subsidiary, Optus, has signed a MoU with Nokia to collaborate on the development of 5G, initially through a trial using Optus spectrum in the 3.5GHz band. The two say they will trial an early 5G prototype in the band — whch has been globally harmonized by the ITU — in Australia in 2017.

They said their collaboration would include:
- promoting 5G global standardization and industrialization;
-  exploration and trials for new network architectures and applications – to prepare Optus and Singtel for future 5G deployments;
- building technology leadership in 5G – a demonstration of pre-commercial 5G systems at a major sporting event.

Optus said it had conducted initial closed tests with Nokia at its Sydney headquarters on a new 5G radio test bed based on Nokia’s AirScale product.

According to Optus “the demonstration highlighted 5G speed capability with the delivery of virtual reality video content. It also showed ultra-reliable low-latency networking enabling new industrial use cases such as real-time responsive robots.”

It added: “At the same time, a trial has been completed demonstrating the capability of Narrow Band-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) to support the connectivity needs of IoT applications.”

Nokia debuted its AirScale product at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2016 with what it claimed was a “5G-ready air interface” saying it would radically alter the way networks are built.

“Operators will be able to use Nokia AirScale radio access to profitably satisfy future demands including the Internet of Things, virtual reality, augmented reality, factories of the future and other advanced scenarios such as video that demand extreme performance,” Nokia said.

It added: “Nokia AirScale can run all radio technologies simultaneously in one base station; use any architecture topology, be scaled to virtually unlimited capacity; and it uses 60 percent less energy than even Nokia's existing, market-leading radio access platform.

“Furthermore, Nokia AirScale is extremely versatile and compact, allowing it to be installed in novel locations using any available transport and be effectively hidden from view.”

Published in Telecom Operators

ITU: Standardizing innovation

Written on Monday, 03 October 2016 07:20

ITU is organizing the third Global Standards Symposium that will take place on 24 October 2016 in Hammamet, Tunisia and will be hosted by the Government of Tunisia.

The exponential advancement of ICTs has dramatically improved real-time communication and information sharing, and has enabled billions to send, receive and impart digital information on a worldwide scale. But at the same time, it has become clear that the use of these technologies, which rely heavily on standardization outputs, brings about a host of challenges with respect to the privacy and security of communications, and ultimately, with respect the end users’ perception of these technologies as trustworthy or potentially harmful. Responding to this critical issue, ITU is organizing this third Global Standards Symposium that will be preceding ITU’s quadrennial World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-16).   

The event will bring together thought leaders in the standardization sphere to discuss how standards efforts could best integrate the consideration of security, privacy and trust. In focus will be regulatory principles relevant to security, privacy and trust, as well as how industry players and supporting standards bodies plan to meet end-users’ expectations in this domain. The agenda brings together a diverse range of industry players such as Deutsche Telekom, Google, Huawei, Alibaba, Symantec and SAP as well as representatives from government, civil society and standards development organizations.

On the other side, ITU is also organizing a meeting of senior industry executives to explore the new industry dynamics ushered in by the rise of over-the-top (OTT) business models, as well as means to accelerate the deployment of innovative broadband access solutions such as giga-band through a combination of LTE, WiFi and ITU G.fast technology.

The invitation-only “CxO meeting” will be kindly hosted by Tunisie Telecom on 23 October 2016, the day prior to the Global Standards Symposium (GSS-16) and the following World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-16).

Innovative OTT messaging, telephony and streaming services have become a staple of the wide range of services now on offer to end-users. The conclusions of the CxO meeting will feed into ongoing discussions in ITU on the promotion of OTT innovation, possible regulatory approaches to OTT, the value of partnerships between OTT players and network operators, and incentives for infrastructure investment and the protection of privacy and personal data.

G.fast is a new ITU broadband standard that allows delivery of up to 1 Gbit/s over the traditional telephone lines that still make up a substantial proportion of so-called “last-mile” networks. The effective combination of broadband access solutions such as G.fast, 4G LTE and WiFi could prove to be a cost-effective means of bringing end-users within reach of bandwidth-intensive services such as Ultra-HD ‘4K’ or ‘8K’ streaming and next-generation IPTV, advanced cloud-based storage and communication via HD video.

A common thread running through the discussions of CxO meeting will be the consideration of the specific needs of developing countries, both in terms of developing countries’ demands of international standardization and the particular challenges faced by these countries in the deployment of advanced ICT infrastructure.

The conclusions of the CxO meeting will be reflected by a communiqué agreed by the meeting’s participants which will be presented to WTSA-16.

The CxO meeting targets C-level executives of ICT companies and invited guests representing other industry sectors. If you would like to participate in this meeting, please contact Honora Daily at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Published in Government

The ITU has announced a new standard for High Dynamic Range (SDR) television saying it represents a major advance in television broadcasting. “HDR brings an incredible feeling of realism, building further on the superior color fidelity of ITU’s Ultra-High Definition Television (UHDTV) Recommendation BT.2020,” ITU said.

The ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) has developed the standard (Recommendation in ITU parlance) in collaboration with experts from the television industry, broadcasting organizations and regulatory institutions in its Study Group 6.

“High Dynamic Range Television will bring a whole new viewing experience to audiences around the world,” said ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao. “TV programming will be enhanced with brighter pictures that add sparkle to entertainment and realism to news coverage.”

François Rancy, director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, added: “High Dynamic Range Television represents an important step towards the virtual-reality quality of experience to be delivered by future broadcasting and multimedia systems.

Andy Quested, chairman of ITU-R Working Party 6C (WP 6C), which developed the new standard, said: “This Recommendation is the culmination of three years of intensive work by dedicated image experts from around the world. HDR images are stunning and this is another major step forward in television quality. Program makers today need a much wider range of options in order to meet the expectations of the different platforms they must supply.”

The new standard, ITU-R HDR-TV Recommendation BT.2100, allows TV programs to take full advantage of the new and much brighter display technologies, ITU says. “HDR-TV can make outdoor sunlit scenes appear brighter and more natural, adding highlights and sparkle. It enhances dimly lit interior and night scenes, revealing more detail in darker areas, giving TV producers the ability to reveal texture and subtle colors that are usually lost with existing Standard Dynamic Range TV.”

The HDR-TV Recommendation details two options for producing High Dynamic Range TV images. The Perceptual Quantization (PQ) specification achieves a very wide range of brightness levels using a transfer function that is finely tuned to match the human visual system and the Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) specification offers a degree of compatibility with legacy displays by more closely matching the previously established television transfer curves. The Recommendation also outlines a simple conversion process between the two HDR-TV options.

 

Published in Satellite Industry
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