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Poll: ITU Is Standards King

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) remains the most influential standards body in telecom -- more important than the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) or the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) , according to the results of a recent Light Reading poll: ITU's Role.

On the back of the ITU's big event, Telecom World, which took place in Hong Kong last week, we surveyed our readers to find out how important they feel the ITU is in setting the tech standards for the telecom world.

Nearly half (48 percent) describe international standards for next-generation networks as "critical," while another 29 percent say they're "very important." Only 4 percent say standards aren't important at all.

Eighty-seven percent of our poll takers say the ITU is either "critical," "very important," or "moderately important" to the development of international standards. Twenty percent say the ITU plays a "critical" role in standards making, 31 percent say it plays a "very important" role, and 38 percent see the group as "moderately important." Only 4 percent say the ITU's role is "not important at all."

A sizable chunk of our sample -- 41 percent -- say the ITU may be compromising its neutral bearing by holding highly commercial vendor events like Telecom World. Fifty-nine percent say the ITU's interest in show business is no problem at all -- a sentiment echoed by ITU Secretary General-Elect Hamadoun Touré in his interview with LRTV. (See ITU Telecom World 2006 Highlights.)

Light Readers are evenly divided on the question of whether incumbent telecom operators exert too much influence over the ITU. Thirty-five percent say they do indeed, 36 percent say they don't, and 29 percent say they don't know.

Finally, Telecom World was billed as a "truly international" tradeshow, but some reports from Hong Kong said it was a mostly Asian exhibition. Forty percent of readers who took our poll had actually attended the show, and exactly half of them came away feeling as if they'd been to a "truly international" event. (See Big Guns Crash ITU Party.)

The ITU poll -- ITU's Role -- will close at 6:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

incredulous 12/5/2012 | 3:17:11 PM
re: Poll: ITU Is Standards King Not that I have any more love for one organization over another but I had look at the results of the poll to see if my perception was that far out of the norm. Nice title, at least it got me to read the article.

I put much more stock in the workings of the IETF or IEEE than I would put into the ITU and I believe the results of your poll agree. 89% of respondents ranked the IETF in the top 3 categories of influence while only 78% of respondents ranked the ITU in similar fashion. Even more telling, 14% of those polled rank the ITU as insignificant, only 2% of those polled rank the IETF the same way.

My percerption of the ITU (or the King of standards bodies) is that it is an antiquated organization based on the notion of a government-regulated global industry. As more PTT's are privatized and competition spreads into the telecom industry the ITU will have to reinvent itself or perish.

The ITU has always been an easy target for ridicule given the amount of work it produces and the time frame in which it operates. To be fair, over the years the other standards bodies have become more politicized and or bureaucratic as they've grown (especially the IETF) The fact remains that the ITU is as are most monarchies, part of a by-gone era in which nations were required to negotiate the protocols of exchange between their communication systems. GSM, IP, and other systems have changed the game.

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