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Metrics of Major Standards Bodies

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Anthony Rutkowski

In a recent CircleID posting related to the ITU-T, the demise of that body over the years and the underlying causes were described. Among other questions, it raises the question of where has the industry technical collaborative activity gone. The short answer is just about everywhere else. This was exemplified by a recently compiled spreadsheet of some 200 different cloud forums prepared by the ITU-T's own cloud coordination group. As noted below, two industry groups have done especially well over the past two decades.

The preposterous political assertions by some of the ITU's leaders about that organization in the context of events like WCIT and WTSA stand in stark contrast to the reality today if one simply digs out some of the organizational metrics. For example,

  • There are only 136 ITU-T members — a small fraction of what it was two decades ago
  • 40% of these members are in a cut-rate category designated "associate" that allow participation in one Study Group
  • Membership has recently been opened to academic institutes at 1/10th the usual fee to build the membership numbers. For any of the many designated developing countries, the rate is 1/20th and attendence in Geneva is subsidized.
  • Only 64 of the 193 ITU Administrations have any ITU-T members
  • The US accounts for 1/4 of the ITU-T members, and 10 countries account for 2/3 of the members.
  • Among the cut-rate associate members designating a Study Group, nearly one half are in SG15 (transport & access). The top three Study Groups accounting for 85% of the associates are SGs 15, 2 (telephony operations), 16 (multimedia specs).
  • Several companies hold multiple memberships: Alcatel-Lucent (6), Altera (2), Ciena (2), Cisco (2), Ericsson (3), Fujitsu (2), Microsoft (4), Motorola (2), NTT (4), OJSC (3), Samsung (2), Sigma Designs (2), Softbank (3), Telecom Italia (2), Telenor (2), Vodaphone (2).
  • A typical meeting — usually twice a year — will be attended by about 100 people from perhaps a dozen represented companies from maybe 25 countries. Many meetings will be smaller; a few a little larger.
  • Even high profile meetings such as the recent Study Group 13 (cloud/emerging networks) event, attracted only 196 people from 38 countries and 31 companies. Specific actions such as the pursuit of a highly controversial cloud computing security framework were done by five people from four organizations.

The IETF. By comparison, the recent Vancouver meeting of the IETF had some 1500 attendees paying $650-800 to attend to collaborate to produce many of the key Internet, cybersecurity, and cloud related standards today. The metrics of IETF participation and diversity are remarkable.

  • 485 entities - mainly companies - attended
  • The top ten companies accounting for 342 people included Cisco Systems, Huawei Technologies, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Juniper Networks, Microsoft Corp, Google Inc., NTT Communications, ZTE Corporation, and France Telecom Orange
  • Participants came from 71 different countries
  • The top ten countries accounting for 1122 people included the US, China, Japan, Canada, France Germany, the UK, Korea, Netherlands, and Finland.

The 3GPP. The 3GPP is by any measure the largest and most active telecommunication standards body today — developing what are essentially the mandatory specifications for the world's mobile network infrastructure. The organization is tightly coupled with the GSM Association (GSMA) which has its own specialized collaborative groups and hosts the world's largest industry tradeshow. Looking at the most recent Barcelona meeting of 3GPP SA2 which defines mobile systems architectures for the industry. SA2 is one of 25 major technical committees and meets every 60-90 days. The total meeting aggregation is rather massive. 3GPP's membership today stands at 392 companies from 39 different countries — representing most of the world's mobile vendors and operators plus some government agencies. At just the recent SA2 Barcelona meeting:

  • 62 entities attended (all companies except for China's CATT ministry)
  • The top ten companies accounting for 53 people included Huawei Technologies, Nokia Siemens Networks, ZTE Corp, Ericsson, NEC, Qualcomm, Alcatel-Lucent, NTT, Samsung, and III
  • Participants came from 18 different countries
  • The top ten countries accounting for 123 people included China, US, UK, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, Korea, France, Sweden, and Finland.

The ITU's Secretariats issue glowing assertions about the organization in their political PR material. One delusional example was a recent WCIT Background Brief 6 that asserts that the "ITU-T has published around 300 standards relating to cybersecurity" when the actual number was nine — nearly all referencing work done in other bodies. The reality of the metrics today clearly show that the emperor has no clothes. Anyone signing a treaty instrument that relies on ITU-T work, clearly would do so at their peril.

By Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC

Related topics: Internet Governance



correction to ITU-member count Anthony Rutkowski  –  Aug 30, 2012 11:55 PM PDT

The ITU-T 136 member number is current associate members.  The total number of members should be 351.  The number as well as the involvement have, however, fallen dramatically - particularly for major industry players.  This is reflected especially in attendance and materials contributed into the meetings which has approached zero.  That involvement has shifted elsewhere - especially 3GPP and IETF.  The watchword for the ITU-T today is damage control.

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