Digital TV | Emerging Trends
December 10, 2018

The role of academic members at ITU: Interview with Jian Song of Tsinghua University

By ITU News

ITU News recently had the opportunity to interview Jian Song, a professor in the Electronic Engineering Department at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the ITU Journal: ICT Discoveries. As one of ITU’s first group of academic members in 2011, he discusses the role of academia and their contributions to the work of ITU as well as his work in digital broadcasting.

What are some of the latest trends in digital broadcasting?

At this moment, we see several important trends in digital broadcasting. These include higher data throughput and better mobile reception performance. The flexibility to support different input formats is always the target for the broadcasting industry.

With the successful transition from analog to digital broadcasting, we see a strong desire to fully utilize the digital dividend enabled by this transition with appropriate network convergence technology or system structure with 5G to deliver high Quality of Service (QoS) to customers. In the meantime, Big Data analysis, Artificial Intelligence, and blockchain may play a much more important role for the future of broadcasting.

What are some key reasons academia should be involved with the work of ITU?

We are in a world driven by innovation.

Scientific findings and technology development are so fast, especially in the area of information and communication technologies (ICT), and the time from invention to implementation becomes shorter and shorter. These trends result in the need for an in-depth collaboration between academia and industry, not only for education or training, but also for technology transfer. Clearly, ITU with 193 Member States, over 700 private-sector entities, and over 150 academic and research institutes is a good place to make this happen.

Another reason for academia to be actively involved with ITU is that this may influence the direction of ITU’s work, which eventually could translate into related work within the UN system. That is why Tsinghua University actively participates in ITU’s work and became the first group of academia members from China in 2011.

For more information to become an Academic Member visit the website:

In your capacity as Editor-in-Chief of the ITU Journal: ICT Discoveries, could you please share with us some news regarding the topic of the upcoming issue?

ICT Discoveries is a scholarly, professional, and peer-reviewed journal that publishes original research on ICT technical developments and their policy, regulatory, economic, social and legal dimensions while bridging academia and industry. We believe this multidisciplinary approach reflects ITU’s comprehensive field of interest and explores the convergence of ICT with other disciplines.

The journal was officially launched in September 2017 with the first special issue on Artificial Intelligence including 15 papers after a strict peer review. The second special issue focuses on Big Data science and will include 15 papers to be published this December. For more information, one can refer to the website.

Can you describe some of your recent research findings on the visible light communication system (VLC)? What are the benefits of this system?

When using hybrid powerline communications (PLC) and light-emitting diode (LED)-based visible lighting communications system (VLC), it takes advantage that all the LED lamps are connected to the power cable for the power supply and information transmission over PLC, and with the natural combination of the electrical network and illumination network, information services such as video/data delivery, voice transmission, and positioning services can be provided accordingly.

Our particular findings include how the single-frequency network system structure provides a larger coverage area to solve the challenges of frequent handover and shadowing, and how the amplify-and-forward work pattern reduces costs and lowers power consumption.

The advantages of using this system also include more energy savings, higher security, no spectrum approval, little electro-magnetic interference. This system can bring service safety to the electro-magnetic sensitive environments such as power plants, oil depots, hospitals, etc. It can also play an important role in the Internet of Things (IoT) for information collection and dissemination.

The idea of this system, or at least some modules, have been implemented or utilized in many projects, including: the European Union’s Horizon 2020 project on the “Internet of Radio Light” for home networking with 5G; a China-Africa collaboration project for deep-mining applications; and the Indoor Smart Lighting project of China’s National Key Research and Development Plan.

Could you provide an example where hybrid PLC and VLC system have been implemented?

The whole system idea has been implemented and the field trial has been successfully conducted in a power tunnel between Genghe and Bowen transformer substation (220KV) in China, and it will also be used in the China-Africa collaboration project (2018-2020) for deep-mining applications. We sincerely hope that some of these works will eventually and possibly be standardized by ITU for commercialization.

Is it feasible to replicate this technology? What is important to consider when we replicate this model in other countries?

Recently, we have optimized our board-level design to reduce the size of the circuitry, lower the power consumption, and improve the heat dissipation. We believe the system is mature enough to be utilized in real applications. We are also confident that it can be commercially transferred to other countries. Cautions should be taken as on voltage instability and temperature variation in different places and all the components must be at the industrial-level because of the very harsh environments.

Can you describe your role in ITU’s Study Groups, including Study Group 6 of the Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) on ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Broadcasting Service​?

As Vice-Chair of Working Party A of ITU-R Study Group 6, I work closely with ITU Member States, ITU-R Sector Members and Associates at each SG6 meeting to discuss the contributions related to the video and audio transmissions and related issues, and put them into the appropriate recommendations, reports, handbooks, etc.

I also serve as the sub-working group chair of 6A-5, dealing with all the sound and multimedia broadcasting-related contributions. From time to time, we may agree to establish a Rapporteur Group or Correspondence Group and appoint a Rapporteur to work in between meetings on some specific issues. All these standardization efforts, I believe, are vital to the whole TV industry and users worldwide.

Jian Song is the Editor-in-Chief, ITU Journal: ICT Discoveries and Professor, Electronic Engineering Department, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.
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The role of academic members at ITU: Interview with Jian Song of Tsinghua University

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