ITU-T Study Group 3 (SG3) is ITU’s standardization expert group responsible for ‘economic and policy issues’, a mandate that is very much a part of the DNA of ITU, an organization first established to broker international consensus on standards to improve the interoperability of international telegraph services and to provide a neutral venue for countries’ negotiation of interconnection rates.
The economic and financial aspects of information and communication technologies (ICTs) have evolved immeasurably since ITU’s inception in 1865.
Deregulation of the telecommunications industry towards the close of the last century has enabled market competition and innovation to push the Internet out from its mooring in the research community into the mainstream, forever changing the way we do business and go about our daily lives.
Today, circuit-switched networks are being supplanted by packet-based networks against the backdrop of an ICT industry characterized by the accelerating convergence of once disparate fields of communications technology. The distinction between telecommunications and information technology is not nearly as clear as it once was and the sliver of difference that remains is dissipating in line with the convergence of voice, data, multimedia, mobile technologies and computing.
Transformations in the ICT industry have called for sweeping changes to charging and accounting methodologies to reflect new dynamics in the relationship of revenue, traffic and subscriptions- and this is exactly what keeps SG3 busy.
The migration to packet-based networks is not complete. It is a major transformation, without parallel in the ICT industry’s history, and SG3 is tasked with the complicated job of studying the resulting changes to the economics of ICTs and recommending policy principles in response.
SG3 is home to the D-series of standards (ITU-T Recommendations) and the group’s mandate encompasses tariff and accounting principles of international telecommunication services, costing methodologies and related economic and policy issues – a unique mandate within ITU and one that is fairly broad.
As the only study group working on the financial aspects of ICTs, the primary objective of SG3 is to foster collaboration among ITU members in the interests of establishing rates for services that are as fair and as low as possible.
It should then come as no surprise that tackling high rates for mobile roaming forms an integral part of SG3’s work, leading the ITU membership to adopt a new standard to this effect in 2012, Recommendation ITU-T D.98 “Charging in international mobile roaming service”. The standard recommends principles to guide the reduction of international mobile roaming rates, advocating for the empowerment of consumers, market-based solutions and appropriate regulatory intervention.
SG3’s work programme is growing and the group is investigating many pertinent economic issues surrounding changes in technology including: the transition in Internet Protocol from IPv4 to IPv6; dispute resolution mechanisms related to telecommunications charging and invoicing; alternative calling procedures (such as ‘call-back’ and ‘hubbing’); and international Internet connectivity, which still comes at a very high cost in some regions, adversely affecting the ability of people in developing countries to access the Internet and contribute to the Information Society.
In addition to the vital role it plays on the global stage, SG3 also develops standards purpose-built for application in specific regions. SG3 is also home to four active ‘Regional Groups’ that coordinate regional contributions to SG3’s standards work, representing the Arab States, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia-Oceania and Africa.
Regional groups within ITU-T Study Groups contribute significantly to ITU-T’s work to ‘bridge the standardization gap’ between developed and developing countries, a pursuit that will increase the extent to which developing countries can leverage ICT standards to stimulate technology transfer and market expansion.
SG3 is a longstanding global forum dedicated to improving our understanding of the economic and financial aspects of telecommunications and ICT.
The rapid growth and evolution of the ICT industry in recent years has brought home the relevance of SG3’s mandate, particularly in relation to mobile technologies and the shift to a packet-based environment supporting a wide array of user applications.
For a more comprehensive introduction to SG3, I encourage you to visit our ‘SG3 at a glance’ webpage and SG3 homepage, or, better yet, join us at the next meeting of SG3, 26-30 May, where there will be no shortage of experts from whom to learn more!
Watch our video highlighting the work of SG3 here.
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