Development of Recommendations
Most of the work of ITU-T is carried out by its Sector Members and Associates, while the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB) is the executive arm of ITU-T and coordinator for a number of workshops and seminars to progress existing work areas and explore new ones. The events cover a wide array of topics in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT) and attract high-ranking experts as speakers, and attendees from engineers to high-level management from all industry sectors.
The technical work, the development of Recommendations, of ITU-T is managed by Study Groups (SGs). The people involved in these SGs are experts in telecommunications from all over the world. There are currently 13 SGs. Study groups meet face to face according to a calendar issued by the TSB. SGs are augmented by Focus Groups (FGs), an instrument created by ITU-T, providing a way to quickly react to ICT standardization needs and allowing great flexibility in terms of participation and working methods. The key difference between SGs and FGs is that the latter have greater freedom to organize and finance themselves, and to involve non-members in their work. Focus Groups can be created very quickly, are usually short-lived and can choose their own working methods, leadership, financing, and types of deliverables. Recent examples include work on Next Generation Networking, Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and digital identity management.
Approval of Recommendations
The “Alternative Approval Process” (AAP) is a fast-track approval procedure that was developed to allow standards to be brought to market in the timeframe that industry now demands.
This dramatic overhaul of standards-making by streamlining approval procedures was implemented in 2001 and is estimated to have cut the time involved in this critical aspect of the standardization process by 80 to 90 per cent. This means that an average standard which took around four years to approve and publish until the mid nineties, and two years until 1997, can now be approved in an average of two months, or as little as five weeks.
Besides streamlining the underlying procedures involved in the approval process, an important contributory factor to the use of AAP is electronic document handling. Once the approval process has begun the rest of the process can be completed electronically, in the vast majority of cases, with no further physical meetings.
The introduction of AAP also formalizes public/private partnership in the approval process by providing equal opportunities for both Sector Members and Member States in the approval of technical standards.
Once the text of a draft Recommendation prepared by SG experts is considered mature, it is submitted for review to an SG meeting. If agreed by the meeting it is given Consent. This means that the SG has given its consent that the text is sufficiently mature to initiate a final review process leading to approval of the draft Recommendation.
After this Consent has been achieved, TSB announces the start of the AAP procedure by posting the draft text to the ITU-T web site and calling for comments. This gives the opportunity for all members to review the text. This phase, called Last Call, is a four-week period in which comments can be submitted by Member States and Sector Members.
If no comments other than editorial corrections are received, the Recommendation is considered approved since no issues were identified that might need any further work. However, if there are any comments, the SG chairman, in consultation with TSB, sets up a comment resolution process by the concerned experts. The revised text is then posted on the web for an Additional Review period of three weeks.
Similar to the Last Call phase, in Additional Review the Recommendation is considered as approved if no comments are received. If comments are received, it is apparent that there are some issues that still need more work, and the draft text and all comments are sent to the next Study Group meeting for further discussion and possible approval.
Those Recommendations considered as having policy or regulatory implications are approved through what is known as the “Traditional Approval Process” (TAP), which allows a longer period for reflection and commenting by Member States. TAP Recommendations are also translated into the six working languages of ITU (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish).