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The need to reduce the standardization divide

The need to reduce the standardization divide

standardization is vital for the development of telecom networks:

By Ahmed Khaouja

The standard refers to a set of features describing a material or non- material object. Generally, the search for the establishment of standardization is a useful and non-binding action, undertaken by market players. Standardization makes it easier for these players to open new markets, achieve economies of scale and optimize trade in an increasingly globalized economy. Several international organizations are involved, such as ISO (the International Organization for Standardization), the IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) or the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). These bodies are responsible for setting and maintaining standards in the markets. There are also standardization organizations at regional level such as ETSI in Europe (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) or CEN (European Committee for Standardization) or at national level such as the Moroccan Institute for Standardization (IMANOR) in Morocco. Most standards are copyrighted, but there are more and more standards in open format. After 1945, the standardization process developed considerably in industry and in telecommunications. Because of its decisive influence on contemporary economies, standardization can sometimes be considered as a commercial instrument allowing the influence of an economic power to be extended.

Standardization in the field of telecoms is essential because it ensures the proper functioning and development of networks in each country and also internationally. Today several thousand standards are available for this sector. International telecommunications standards, developed in accordance with the principles of global connectivity, interoperability and security, are essential in particular to create trusting environment for various investors. These international telecom standards thus contribute to the development of technical approval specifications, particularly for developing countries to facilitate the work of telecom regulators within the framework of the approval system. The consumption of standardized equipment, on the one hand, allows telecom operators to be less dependent on equipment manufacturers, and, on the other hand, it facilitates the training of personnel, maintenance and transparency in the management of telecom networks.

When was the first standardization in telecoms?
The first standardization in telecom dates back to the beginning of the last century. The question arose in 1902 when Prince Henry of Prussia, returning across the Atlantic at the end of a visit to the United States, attempted to send a courtesy telegraph message from his ship to US President Theodore Roosevelt. The message was rejected by the US coast station because the ship’s radio equipment was of a different type. Following this incident, the German government convened a preliminary radio conference in Berlin in 1903 with the aim of establishing international standards for radiotelegraph communications. After that, two famous shipwrecks have shown the effectiveness of standardization in maritime radiocommunications. In 1909, thanks to a call via the TSF, 920 passengers were saved by the American coast guard during the collision between the “Republic” and the “Florida” . As for the Titanic boat, it was the first to use the SOS code in 1912. Thanks to this SOS code, 700 people, or nearly a third of the passengers, were saved by several ships including the Carpathia, one hour after the end of the shipwreck.

Today, ITU standards have become more fundamental than ever for the operation of telecommunication networks. Without these standards, we would not be able today to communicate or surf the internet via our smartphones.

Given its importance, this theme of standardization was one of the topics discussed at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conferences 2018 held in Dubai from October 29 to November 16. Among the main decisions taken at this conference is the desire to reduce the “standardization gap”. Indeed, ITU Member States have decided to encourage greater participation of developing countries in the ITU standardization process so that they can develop their economies.

Only powerful countries master the development of standards:

Developed countries with a solid industrial fabric strive to master standards and their adoption processes and often engage in technical and diplomatic negotiations to impose them on standardization bodies. The development of standards is one of the actions used by industrialized and developed countries for a peaceful expansion of their area of economic influence. To this effect, one of the motivations of these countries lies in the fact that they seek to become a center of standardization, at a time when we are witnessing a displacement of the centers of production of telecommunications and ICT standards from West to Asia.

Interaction between regulation and normalization.

Standardization is essential for the operation of the global telecommunications system. Its role is further strengthened by technological development and the establishment of competition following the liberalization of this sector. Standardization facilitates, inter alia, the elimination of technical barriers to entry and the opening of new markets. It contributes to the plurality of operators on a market and it facilitates the establishment of conditions of competition. For example, the mobile standards defined from the 1980s contributed to the establishment of competition in telecoms. Today, the 5G deployment plan at the international scale depends heavily on standardization works implying many standaridzation bodies in a process called, IMT 2020, which began in 2012 and will be completed soon. To this end, regulators are often present in standardization bodies such as the ITU, in order to support standardization processes in particular regarding the management of the frequency spectrum, numbering resources or the adoption of new signaling protocols.
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By Ahmed Khaouja Director of PTT Maroc and ITU expert

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