International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is an international organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, that is part of the United Nations system. The ITU has 191 Member States and more than 700 Sector Members and Associates (private companies, non-governmental organizations and other entities). The organization acts as a forum for governments and the private sector to coordinate technical and policy matters related to global telecommunications networks and services.

The ITU is comprised of three sectors: Standardization, Radiocommunication and Development. Each sector specializes in both technical and policy-related matters in their subject areas and is led by a director who reports to the ITU Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General. These officials are elected by the Member States once every four years at the ITU's Plenipotentiary Conference. The next Plenipotentiary Conference is scheduled for 2014.

TIA is a Sector Member of the ITU Development Sector and participates in other sectors' activities through the U.S. government preparatory process and on official U.S. delegations.

Standardization Sector (ITU-T)

The ITU Standardization Sector is responsible for the production of high-quality, internationally accepted, mainly technical, telecommunication standards and related documents that do not fall under the specific domain of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector. Both Member States and Sector Members can actively participate in the standards development work of ITU-T's numerous study groups, which meet in Geneva and elsewhere on a regular basis, at least once a year. The purpose of the study groups is to develop non-binding technical Recommendations (i.e., voluntary technical standards) and other technical documents, based on contributions submitted by the members.

TIA and its engineering committees are accredited by the American National Standards Institute to develop telecommunications standards. TIA is also accredited under ITU-T Series A Recommendation A.6, Cooperation and Exchange of Information between ITU-T and National and Regional Standards Development Organizations, regularly contributing and participating in ITU-T study group meetings and Recommendation development. TIA engineering committees can submit "consensus-based" technical documents and standards to the ITU-T through Series A or as U.S./company contributions. Apart from this, TIA Standards and Technology Department staff frequently participate and contribute as part of U.S. delegations in ITU-T study group meetings and plenary sessions.

More than 3000 Recommendations are currently in force. Some of the topics for which Recommendations have been developed include tariff and accounting principles, data networks and open system communications, integrated broadband cable networks and television and sound transmission, signaling requirements and protocols, end-to-end transmission performance of networks and terminals, multi-protocol and IP-based networks, optical and other transport networks, and multimedia services, systems and terminals.

Once every four years, the sector hosts a World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA), which defines general sector policy, establishes study groups, appoints study group chairmen and vice chairmen and approves four-year study group work programs. The next WTSA will take place in 2012.

Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R)

The Radiocommunication Sector plays an important role in radio frequency spectrum management and satellite orbit management. According to the ITU-R, the sector's mission is to:

The ITU-R hosts several study groups, which meet regularly in Geneva or elsewhere to discuss technical and policy-related issues such as spectrum management, radiowave propagation, fixed-satellite service, broadcasting services and other satellite services. Both Member States and ITU-R Sector Members are allowed to participate in these meetings. Once every two to three years, the sector hosts a World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), where Member States meet to revise and reach consensus on the Radio Regulations. The international Radio Regulations are negotiated at World Radio Conferences and are formed by the Final Acts of WRCs. The Regulations have treaty status following ratification by ITU Member States, and they contain the procedural regulations for notification, coordination and registration of radio frequencies so that harmful interference between radio stations of different countries is avoided. They also contain the international Table of Allocations for bands of frequencies to be used for providing specific radiocommunication services. The most recent WRC was held October 15 - November 9, 2007, in Geneva, Switzerland. The next WRC will be held in Geneva January 23 - February 17, 2012, a departure from the customary two to three year time interval. 

Development Sector (ITU-D)

The mission of ITU-D is to raise the level of awareness of decision-makers concerning the role of telecommunications in national economic and social development; provide telecommunications policy advice; promote the development, expansion and operation of telecom networks and services, particularly in developing countries; and cooperate closely with regional and global financing institutions, telecom organizations and others to promote telecom development. Another goal is to encourage industry participation in telecom development through technology transfer and technical assistance. TIA is an ITU-D Sector Member and regularly participates in ITU-D meetings.

The sector has two study groups, which include Member States and Sector Members working together on topics such as Internet infrastructure rollout, broadband deployment, network migration and interconnection, new technologies for rural applications, digital broadcasting technologies and other topics.

Once every four years, the ITU-D hosts a World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC). The WTDC establishes the work programs and guidelines for defining telecom development study questions and sector priorities. It may also create or change study groups. The WTDC is designated to "serve as a forum for the study of policy, organizational, operational, regulatory, technical and financial questions" related to telecommunications development. The most recent WTDC took place May 24 - June 4, 2010, in Hyderabad, India.  The next WTDC meeting will be held in 2014.

  • Study and issue Recommendations on radiocommunication issues;
  • Effect allocation of bands of the radio-frequency spectrum, the allotment of radio frequencies and the registration of radio frequency assignments and of any associated orbital position in the geostationary satellite orbit in order to avoid harmful interference between radio stations of different countries; and
  • Coordinate efforts to eliminate harmful interference between radio stations of different countries and to improve the use of radio-frequencies and of the geostationary-satellite orbit for radiocommunication services.