An Update on Information and Communications Technology Standardization in Europe

A briefing from the IEEE Brussels global office

31 July 2014

This article is part of a series highlighting the work of IEEE’s global offices.

The IEEE Standards Association held a joint event in May in Brussels with DIGITALEUROPE —the European trade association representing the digital technology industry—to take stock of the work done by the Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) standardization since its creation in late 2011. More than 50 participants attended the event, including representatives from the European Commission, authorizes from various countries as well as from the ICT industry. David Law and I represented IEEE. Law is chair of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group.

From left: David Law, chair, IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group; Rebekka Porath, chair, DIGITIALEUROPE Standardization and Interoperability Group; John Higgins, director general, DIGITALEUROPE. Photo: IEEE

The MSP was created during the standardization review process that resulted in EU Regulation 1025/2012. The regulation is the legal basis for the EU to use European standards for products and for services in support of Union legislation and policies, to identify ICT technical specifications, and to finance European standardization. MSP has played a key role in ensuring that innovation is based on voluntary, global, and consensus-based standards and in avoiding duplication of existing standards, hence speeding up new technology solutions to market.

As an active member of the platform, IEEE has been an important voice in advising the European Commission on ICT standardization policy and on identifying standards for referencing in public procurement. This means that an IEEE standard can be referenced when a public authority issues a tender. For example, previously this authority had to copy all technical specifications for a Wi-Fi technology. This situation was due to the fact that only standards bodies such as CEN, CENELEC, ETSI, IEC ISO, and ITU-T could have their specifications referenced in public tenders. Now, on case-by-case basis after consulting with the MSP, the European Commission can authorize public authorities to reference another technical specification in a public tender/procurement.

As a member of the speakers’ panel, Law highlighted the key role of standards in driving innovation and ensuring interoperability. Law’s views were shared by many of the participants, including the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which advocated for more standardization and cooperation in the ICT sector. It pointed out that those two elements could lead to better responses to the challenges that the Internet poses. In particular, W3C referenced the importance of the OpenStand Principles, namely cooperation, transparency, broad consensus, availability, empowerment and voluntary adoption, to shaping a global community for open innovation.

The event was also an opportunity for MSP members to share their experience in contributing to the platform’s work since its launch and convey their views on what their future priorities should be.

In his closing remarks, Michel Catinat, co-chair for MSP, acknowledged the success of the program over the past two years. He also called for additional actions in order to maximize the impact of the Rolling Plan, which is a multi-annual overview of the needs for preliminary or complementary ICT standardization activities to undertake in support of the EU policy activities. Catinat also pointed out the need to speed up the process of identifying specifications.

Karine Iffour is the director of IEEE Business Development Europe, based in the IEEE Brussels office.

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