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Home | Development | ITU-T, Simon Jones
Simon JonesFurther IPTV progress

Simon Jones, Vice Chairman of ITU-T's Focus Group on IPTV talks to Intercomms about the ITU's ongoing work in this area

Q: Now its work has come to close, what did the Focus Group on IPTV initiated in April 2006 and ran through to December 2007 achieve?
A: The Focus Group is a structure under the ITU that doesn't have the same process and the formality of a Study Group and as such it doesn't produce the final recommendations which are the ITU standards. It is however open to any participant and interested party that doesn't formally have to have membership of the ITU. It has allowed the process to be opened up much more widely and more freely than the normal process at the ITU, allowing a wide range of participants. As a consequence of that, the FG IPTV produced a set of output documents which covered service scenarios, requirement architecture, network security, terminal aspects and middleware - the whole range - which was completed at the final meeting last December.

Q: Not all those documents will have the same level of maturity will they?
A: What was produced in December is in some areas, very mature material, which covers the full range of information necessary, including Architecture, Requirements, Quality of Service, Terminals and other areas. On the architecture area for example, the requirements are very broad and general. There is some variations in level of completeness and maturity of the documents, however all documents have been handed over to the formal process of the Study Group. There was an agreed allocation of documents that were considered at the first IPTV Global Standards Initiative (GSI) meeting in January. Then the Study Groups will take this forward on the route to being formal ITU standards.

Q: Which areas need more work?
A: In the requirement and architecture areas, the Focus Group documents were accepted as baseline working texts to move them forward as recommendations. That really says these two documents are pretty close to being mature but need review by the Study Group. There are also other documents, for example in the network control area there is much closer in coverage to the Study Groups material on Next Generation Networks (NGN) Functional Architecture. The approach that will be taken, will be to establish how the Functional Architecture of the NGN needs to be uplifted to bring that material into their work.

There is a difference between taking the work from the Focus Group and completing it and making it mature as a standard such as the, high level documents like the architecture requirements. When you get to the next level of detail, there then needs to be closer work between the experts who own the NGN architecture and the people who understand what IPTV needs from the network. Rather than produce two different documents, what is needed is to uplift the NGN work to make sure it fully supports the requirements of IPTV. That was largely the route that was suggested at the January meeting and will carry on in April IPTV-GSI.

In many areas, work is progressing in its own right. In other areas, where there is a much greater synergy and where more detailed work is necessary, work will carry on in the Study Group. There's no point in creating a detailed network control for IPTV when a large percentage of it already exists within the NGN. It is a question of what materials need to move from the work the Focus Group has done, into the existing NGN network to uplift to make a complete NGN that covers voice, data and IPTV.

Q: How does the IPTV GSI differ from the Focus Group?
A: The Focus Group was a set of dedicated meetings, looking at IPTV. It was co-ordinated and managed as a separate entity under the ITU's rules. The GSI acts as an umbrella entity, for coordinating the meetings that are formally held by the Study Groups. The GSI itself doesn't hold meetings, the study groups themselves hold the meetings but the GSI is the framework that allows co-ordination between Study Groups that are working on the same areas. With the NGN GSI, various study groups meet together at the same time and the GSI provides an administrative framework to bring the various questions, within the various Study Groups together to work on the same technical areas at the same time.

Q: What were the main outputs from the first IPTV GSI meeting in January?
A: What happened in January was that the IPTV GSI met along with the NGN GSI and helped coordinate sessions on architecture, terminals, network control, requirements and service scenarios, etc.. The general feeling was that it was a successful meeting. The work has been very comfortably handed over from the Focus Group into the Study Groups. A number of the output documents from the Focus Group have been accepted as baseline working text or new draft recommendations. The main discussion was around the April meeting and how the GSIs for NGN and IPTV can manage to co-ordinate their meetings. We now have a schedule for the IPTV GSI in April-May time.

Q: What is the duration of the IPTV GSI?
A: The GSI is currently scheduled to run to the end of this Study period because that is how the current structure of the ITU's Study Group is defined. How it progresses, beyond the end of this year and the end of the Study period, will be decided at the World Telecommunications Standardisation assembly that takes place in October, where I am sure IPTV will be a consideration in the minds of all the delegates.

Q: To what extent will the Focus Group's outputs be matured and completed within the current study period?
A: The proceedings of the Focus Group have been published and can be downloaded for free by visiting this webpage: 2008/en.

Some of the documents could be sufficiently mature that the Study Group could take them for consent by September if not by December 2008. In other areas, where there is more work to bring the material together, then that really has to be up to the Study Group, but I think that they would also like to complete a certain amount of work in this study period which ends this year.

I am hopeful that the GSI will allow the work of the Focus Group to flow into the Study Group and for a good number of the documents to come through to maturity as standards. It was agreed that all the outputs for the Focus Group would be published as one collective document and that would be maintained within the ITU so that all the material produced by the Focus Group would be available externally. I hope that the GSI will enable the work to reach maturity as formal ITU recommendations within this year.

Q: How will these new standards impact, industry who already rolling out solutions?
A: We have already seen first generation IPTV services in the US, Asian and European markets. People have moved from trials which are running just a few years ago, into live services. I expect that we will see a maturity of these services into their second generation in which we may see a change in regulation or market demand that requires interoperation between service providers and network providers. A potential outcome of this will be that a customer can go into retail shop, buy an IPTV box, call their network operators and sign up, plug the IPTV box into that network and then access services from a range of third party service providers. It is to meet that need that the value of the ITU's work on standardisation will be realised. As the market place matures there will be greater choice in end equipment and services from multiple service providers and network operators. That is where the standards for interoperation of devices and between services in the network are going to be absolutely crucial. That is where the work from the Focus Group and the GSI will be most timely and valuable.

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