Russia and the ITU Evolution

14:27 23.11.2022 • Rachel Staviskaya , RF Merited Communications Worker, Cand. Sc. (Tech.)

On May 17, 1865, European states then in possession of telegraph networks instituted in Paris the International Telegraph Union (Union internationale du télégraphe), one of the oldest international organizations. Among its members were Russia, France, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, the Netherlands, Prussia, the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, the Kingdom of Hanover, Bavaria, the Grand Duchy of Baden, the Duchy of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and the Kingdom of Wurttemberg. The only country that shunned the high assembly was Great Britain; British telegraph networks were privately owned, and their private owners fiercely opposed any tariff regulations.

As the technological standards of electric communications developed, the International Telegraph Union was renamed the International Telecommunication Union, and in 1947 it became a specialized UN establishment.

In 1992, the ITU makeup was altered. There appeared three specialized sectors within the Union, each with its own functions.

Radio communication (ITU-R);

Standardization (ITU-Т);

Development (ITU-D).

In more than 150 years of ITU existence it has never had a person from Russia in the post of Secretary General. As for the United States, its representative did fill the position. An ex-staffer of the US regulator FCC, Gerald Gross, first acted as Secretary General between June 1958 and December 1959 following the sudden demise of ITU head Argentinean Marco Aurelio Andrade (G. Gross had been his aide). And in January 1960, he was elected ITU Secretary General, in which position he stayed until the end of 1965.

Throughout the ITU history, Russia, being its founder state, and its nationals made and continue to make priceless contribution to the work of the Union. The work of M.I. Krivosheyev who was active in various ITU entities for 65 years has been altogether without precedent. On May 17, 2015, when they marked the 150th birthday of the International Telecommunication Union, scientific consultant of the Radio R&D Institute M.I. Krivosheyev was awarded the premium ITU150 prize given to outstanding figures and scholars who contributed the most to the improvement of people’s life quality the world over by introducing innovations in the area of information communications technologies (ICT).

Thus was marked M.I. Krivosheyev’s personal contribution to the successful accomplishment of the ITU historic mission of furthering television broadcasting. At present this is a major information communication technology, for one can confidently say that for a number of decades it was difficult to picture a person living in any part of the planet, however remote, without television. It was the ITU that in the mid-1940s initiated embarking on international standardization in TV broadcasting, without which it would have been impossible to start its introduction on a large scale.

The fifth Plenary Assembly of the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR) that took place in Stockholm in 1948 instituted the 11th Study Group (SG 11) for studying and introducing international standardization of TV broadcasting from incandescence to the end, as it were. Although issues under its examination were originally of the analog kind, most of them are still relevant for standardizing digital TV broadcasting that became a leading research trend in the early 1970s.

In 1970, M.I. Krivosheyev was elected Vice Chair of SG 11 at the CCIR Plenary Assembly in Deli, and appointed acting chairman as of 1972. It should be said that by then color television had already been launched, and the world found itself divided among three incompatible systems, namely, NTSC, PAL, and SECAM. Those were the circumstances, in which they had to embark on the study of digital TV broadcasting.

M.I. Krivosheyev, as the acting group chair, pioneered a new approach to standardization in this sphere. On the eve of TV broadcasting going digital it was supposed that compressed uniform signals of digital studios would be transmitted along standard channels. That meant rock-solid frequency plans, channel bands of terrestrial and satellite communication equipment, giving a new lease on life to millions upon millions of analog TV sets with digital set-top boxes, unification of signals in television program production, etc.

That got a somewhat mixed reception. Some people were skeptical and doubtful, saying that this kind of compression was a myth, and it was generally advisable to postpone research till real prerequisites had emerged. However, no one bothered to put forward alternative suggestions. Then it was proposed launching a search for a coordinated solution on digital compression of TV signals to radically reduce the spectrum. Ultimately, they prepared the Study Program (SP 11A-1/11) that went down in history as the start of international effort consolidation for coding and compressing TV signals. Also, thanks to Japan’s scientific contribution, they embarked on research into high-frequency television (HDTV 27/11).

Since work on compression required specific task outlining, M.I. Krivosheyev formulated an important technical requirement for the launch of digital TV broadcasting, “Digital television (including HDTV and several compressed signals of standard-resolution TV programs) are to be transmitted in standard channel bands of six, seven and eight MHz used worldwide. M.I. Krivosheyev argued that there would also be developed mighty compression algorithms (in anticipation of MPEG standards) and efficient methods of channel modulation. Life bore out his bold prevision, and ITU-R Recommendations BT.798 and BT.1206 prepared in 1991 established frequency bands for terrestrial digital TV broadcasting at six, seven and eight MHz, as well as sanctioning the development of the now known systems of digital TV broadcasting (Recommendation BT-1306), without which it would have been impossible to hold the 2004/2006 Regional Radio Conference (RRC). The result was that digital dividends became reality for the first time.

Implementation of Conception 6, 7 and 8 served the basis of revising the Stockholm plan. That document went down in history as the starting point of preparing the 2004/6 RRC Conference that pioneered plans for the introduction of terrestrial digital television broadcasting. M.I. Krivosheyev was the doyen and chair of the first session of the Conference in 2004.

The work of SG 11 on digital TV broadcasting proceeded in conditions of technological diversity with various technical levels, economic possibilities and interests of different countries, as well as cut-throat competition among manufacturers. And yet, the Group under Russian chairmanship managed to formulate and introduce into television science a global approach to developments and standardization of TV broadcasting systems and services. This approach displayed fundamental novelty that took into account the need to harmonize and interconnect program production complexes, technological features of basic TV channel sections with their radio frequency support. This approach was also used in devising the Recommendation for Digital Studios, as well as in HDTV studies.

One more project devised under the Russian aegis was Recommendations for Digital Studios approved at the 1981 meeting of SG 11. The highest point in the destiny of that historic Recommendation was the 15th Plenary Assembly of the CCIR that convened in Geneva in February 1982. The Plenary Assembly considered a number of addenda with amendments. It also tasked SG 11 chair with perfecting and coordinating the draft of the Recommendation considering those addenda.

The result was emergence of a new draft of the recommendation (Doc.11/1027, Rev. 1). The Recommendation (BT.601) was passed unanimously. It went down in history as the first ever world uniform standard for digital TV studios ousting mutually incompatible systems of NTSC, PAL and SECAM.

In order to consolidate efforts to create the uniform standard, they prepared the report titled Global Approach to HDTV with a model of the multifunctional HDTV system proposed by SG 11 chair (Doc. 11/245 of 12 November 1987).

In 1999, SG 11, after years of efforts, adopted the digital version of ITU-R Recommendation BT.709-3, which became the uniform world standard for HDTV systems.

In 1992, when the conception of HDTV-6-7-8 had been translated into practice, the SG 11 chair at the session of the CCIR Task Group 11/4 (hosted by Washington on October 13-15, 1992), stemming from the results obtained in Japan, suggested embarking on international standardization of TV systems with a definition of over 1,000 lines selected for HDTV systems. They worked out Question 40/6 and the first BT.1201 ITU-R Recommendation for Extremely High Resolution Imagery.

The formats 3840x2160 (4k) and 7680x4320 (8k) were chosen for ultrahigh definition systems. The 8k Format practically erases the difference between TV pictures and reality.

The year 1993 also witnessed the start of studies of interactive television and radio broadcasting systems on Russia’s suggestion. SG 11 became the first ever organization to have started their international standardization (Question 232/11, Recommendation BT.1369). That made for the furthering and wide dissemination of a new important service.

Way back in the conception of the first interactive ITU Telecom (Telecom Interactive 1997) the SG 11 chair proposed the concept of worldwide broadcasting roaming (WBR), similar to that used in mobile communications. In that case it meant that programs could be received in any point of the world where these programs were accessible, involving a single receiver regardless of the broadcasting platform. That also made possible a considerably wider and simplified access to television and radio broadcasts. Given the progress in technologies, Russia initiated in 2012 adoption of the first Question for studies on the subject (Question 136/6). They drew up the first Recommendation for WBR household appliances (Recommendation BT.2072).

On Russia’s suggestion they started in 2008 a study of broadcasting and multimedia video-information systems (VIS) at the ITU-R. For the first time VIS made possible outside TV broadcasts on screens of various sizes in public places. They are also needed to notify the population and solve other information problems. The new technological solutions helped VIS voice-over, as it were, thanks to mobile communication terminals. Uniting millions of interactive VIS screens and the multibillion park of mobile devices will help considerably increase the traffic of mobile and other communication equipment.

With the switch to digital TV broadcasting initiated by the SG 6 Honorary Chair they developed the Question of Digital 3D TV Broadcasting Studies (Question 128/6). It became a global vector in 3D TV broadcasting exploration. In accordance with this Question, they devised Recommendations BT.2021, BT.2025, BT.2027 and Report BT.2160.

At the preparatory meeting prior to the World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC-77) that convened in Geneva in 1976, it was suggested that the frequency Plan of 1977 provides for the possibility of transmitting signals of TV broadcast programs by digital methods. That innovative idea belonged to M.I. Krivosheyev. It was taken into account in the new frequency Plan in 2000 and made for considerable improvement in efficiency.

The list of initiatives and practical achievements involving Russian representation in the IEU is nothing if not impressive. In 1992, they worked out the Question of Studying Transmission of Digital Multi-program Television via the Satellite Transponder on our suggestion (Question 217/11). Currently, this technology is used in all satellite television broadcasting systems.

We helped promote the system of assessing the quality of TV imagery, control and measurements of TV channel parameters. What merits a special mention is the domestic method of comparison fields for two images on the screen of the same monitor. It was first presented as Soviet contribution at the meeting of SG 11 in Moscow in 1958. The method has been included in Recommendation BT.500 and is considered a highly effective means of subjectively estimating the quality of TV imagery.

The stock of domestic developments within the ITU framework also contains the theory of weight functions and weighing filters for a subjective expert examination of the TV broadcasting system that help estimate image quality with a view to the specifics of perceiving various types of distortions (ITU-T Recommendations J.61); the method of remote control of basic TV channel characteristics based on transforming received broadband measuring signals into their narrowband equivalents and their transmission to the control point via reverse channels (Recommendation BT.1789).

Russia is also the initiator of expanding studies of broadcasting standards covering the entire channel, including the receiving side (end to end). That was reflected in ITU-R Question 102-2/6. This is a field of close cooperation between the ITU and manufacturers.

Another major contribution was made by the RF to protect TV viewers against the health-hazard psychophysiological effect of TV program watching (Doc. 6M/65 of September 7, 2001). It served the basis of drawing up ITU-R Recommendation BT.1702, Guidance for the Reduction of Photosensitive Epileptic Seizures Caused by Television.

As requirements for overcoming digital inequality increased, as did those for transmitting top-quality 2D/3D video information, expansion of internet services, all-embracing interactivity and mobility of the user, VIS TV broadcasting, efficient use of radio spectrum, in 2013 it was proposed taking up a study of a fundamentally new global platform of digital TV broadcasting. The SG 6 meeting in November 2014 approved the Question of studying the global platform of digital broadcasting (Doc. 6/291).

Russia rightly commands respect at the ITU. The traditions of Soviet experts have been successfully continued to this day. A whole galaxy of highly skilled scholars and experts from the Radio R&D Institute, the Russian Satellite Communications Company, the Main Radio Frequency Center, Roskosmos, Rostelekom, universities and other entities are at present working at the ITU.

Thus, for instance, A.Ye. Kucheryavy, professor, head of the Communication Networks and Data Transmission Department at St. Petersburg State University of Telecommunications, used to head ITU-T SG 11, Protocols and Signalization. Let me note that he was also vice president of ITU-T Study Group 11 between 2005 and 2008, and from 2009 to 2012.

One of the acknowledged experts in international law regulation of satellite networks is V.A. Strelets. In 2019, the ITU Assembly of Radio Communications appointed him chair of the Study Group of the ITU Radio Communication Sector (ITU-R), SG 4, Satellite Services.

V.A. Strelets has nearly 30 years of research, technical and administrative experience under his belt in the area of regulating the use of radio frequency spectrum. V.A. Strelets was also vice chair of the Eighth ITU-R Study Group. From 1993 on, he took part in the activity of working and task groups of the Fourth and Eighth Study Groups of the ITU Radio Communication Bureau, the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunication Administrations (CEPT) and the Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications (RCC). In 2007, he was appointed vice chair of the ITU-R consultative group, which prior to the Guadalajara Plenipotentiary Conference had been headed by V.V. Timofeyev. Also, from 2008 to 2010 he was adviser and acting adviser at ITU Council sessions. At the Guadalajara Plenipotentiary Conference of 2010 he was elected member of the ITU Radio Regulations Committee.

Many domestic specialists are SG vice chairs for all the three ITU work fields. Functioning in the organization are several regional groups of corresponding SG 3, 11, 13 and 20 for the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia that unite the interests of regulators and business in the CIS countries.

Russia successfully chaired the ITU Radio Communication Assembly in Sharm-el-Sheikh in October 2019. The forum is traditionally organized on the eve of the seminal event in global radio communications, the World Radio Communication Conference, which took place between October 28 and November 22, 2019.

The fact that Russian representative S.Yu. Pastukh, deputy director of the Electromagnetic Compatibility Analysis R&D Center at the Radio Research and Development Institute, was appointed chair of the Assembly, which he successfully conducted, signifies acknowledgment of the important role of the Russian Federation in the ITU, and also international recognition of S.Yu. Pastukh as a top-notch professional well-versed in the area of radio communications. For the last eight years he had successfully headed the 1st Study Group of the ITU Radio Communication Sector (ITU-R).

The 2019 Radio Communications Assembly became a largely signal event. It summed up the work of ITU-R Study Groups on mapping out ITU-R Recommendations and Reports, which are among the most important regulating documents in radio communications at the international level.

The focus of the Assembly’s attention was IMT matters, in particular, amending ITU-R Recommendation M.1036 that defines frequency plans for introducing the IMT standard mobile telecommunication terrestrial segment (5G systems included) in frequency bands reserved for IMT in the Radio Regulations (RR).

Among the most difficult matters considered by the Assembly was the draft of a new ITU-R Recommendation, SA.[IMT-EESS/SRS COORDINATION], that dealt with the methodology of defining coordination zones of terrestrial stations of satellite service, and ground-based stations of the Earth space research to protect the said systems against interferences from IMT-2020 systems within the frequency ranges of 25.5 GHz to 27 GHz and 37 GHz to 38 GHz. Thanks to the efforts of Russia’s delegation, the Radio Communication Assembly tasked the 7th ITU-R Study Group with fine-honing the said project and passing the Recommendation in 2021, at the latest. These ranges are extremely important for the Russian Federation, since the 25.5 GHz to 27 GHz range has top priority for introducing 5G/IMT-2020 mobile communication systems in this country.

On top of that, the Radio Communication Assembly adopted two new Resolutions, which specified the main goals of research into television broadcasting furthering, namely, Principles for the Future Development of Broadcasting, ITU-R Resolution 70, and ITU-R Resolution 71, Role of the Radio Communication Sector in the Ongoing Development of Television, Sound and Multimedia Broadcasting. On the basis of ITU research made in accordance with these Resolutions the future system of next-generation standards and technical solutions will be outlined and developed at the international level in the area of production, international exchange and delivery of television broadcasting programs.

The adoption of these Resolutions is a response to the challenges faced by television broadcasting, the need to raise the speed of transport flows for transmitting television programs in new high- and ultrahigh definition formats, and on the other hand, the likelihood of the accessible radiofrequency range getting reduced because in some countries a portion of working frequency bands of television broadcasting are handed over to other radio services, such as mobile communication networks. A no less relevant task is to harmonize standards and systems of next-generation digital television broadcasting at the global level to cut the cost of equipment, speed up the development of advanced technological solutions and television systems.

In the course of the 2019 Assembly they elected chairs and deputy chairs of Study Groups and other ITU-R working bodies.

For the first time in the ITU history Russian representative V.A. Strelets, Scientific Consultant at the Radio R&D Institute, was elected Chair of the 4th Study Group (SG), Satellite Services. Besides, Russian representatives were elected deputy chairs of the following ITU-R Study Groups:

  • SG 1, Spectrum Management, Tatiana Sukhodolskaya, a Radio R&D Institute staffer;
  • SG 3, Radio Wave Propagation, Olga Yastrebtsova, a Radio R&D Institute staffer;
  • SG 5, Terrestrial Services, Alexei Shurakhov, a Radio R&D Institute staffer;
  • SG 6, Broadcasting Services, Andrei Lashkevich, a Radio R&D Institute staffer;
  • SG 7, Science Services, Igor Zheltonogov, a Geizer Telekom public company staffer.

Elected deputy chair of the Radio Communication Consultative Group was A.V. Vasilyev, of the Radio R&D Institute; deputy chair of the Preparatory Meeting for the 2023 Conference, S.Yu. Pastukh, of the Radio R&D Institute, and deputy chair of the Coordination Committee for Vocabulary, Oksana Khimach, of the Radio R&D Institute.

Election of staffers from Russia’s leading Institute for research in the said area to the posts of SG 4 Chair and deputy chairs of nearly all study groups and working parties of the ITU-R became possible thanks to the active part played by the Radio R&D Institute in the work of the Radio Communication Sector; this means that the RF pays close attention to the development and support of research activity.

The decisions taken by the 2019 Radio Communication Assembly defined the research program of the ITU Radio Communication Sector for the period until 2023 and laid down the technological basis needed for the work of the 2019 World Radio Communication Conference.

Secretary General decorated S.Yu. Pastukh with an ITU Silver Medal for the faultless conduct of the Radio Communication Assembly and his contribution of many years to the work of the Union.

To coordinate work with the ITU the Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communication (RCC) was set up in Moscow on December 17, 1991, by the Communications Administrations of 11 countries, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan, and Ukraine. In October 1992, heads of government from member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) met in Bishkek (the Republic of Kyrgyzstan) to approve the establishment of the RCC and in conclusion signed the Agreement on International Relations Coordination in the Field of Postal and Telecommunications. The RCC announced itself open to other Communications Administrations for joining.

At present the RCC is an international organization with the functions of an interstate CIS coordinating body in the area of postal and telecommunications, and also has the observer status with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU), as well as interacting with international and regional organizations, and is active in the work of conferences and forums.

Traditionally, proposals for the work of conferences and assemblies are sent to the ITU on behalf of six main regional organizations, the African Telecommunication Union (ATU), the League of Arab States (LAS), the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT), the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunication Administrations (CEPT), the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL), and the Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications (RCC).

The general proposals by Communication Administrations of the RCC member states hold the pride of place and are highly appreciated at the ITU for meticulous elaboration and novelty of ideas.

All difficult issues are habitually dealt with by the ITU at the meetings of representatives from these six organizations. Both at the top-level events as such, and in preparation for them, regional organizations exchange opinions and try to reach mutually acceptable solutions even on the most acute issues.

When electing candidates for posts of authority at ITU working bodies, they also observe an equitable interregional approach.

Thus, a representative of an RCC member state invariably has a place of one of the six vice chairs reserved for them at all ITU conferences and assemblies. A similar attitude is also practiced in electing the leaders of consultative groups and study groups.

The ITU Secretary General and ITU Bureau Directors hold consultations on a regular basis and take part in the meetings conducted at the RCC.

The RCC has signed Memoranda of Mutual Understanding and Cooperation Agreements with nine regional organizations, the Asia-Pacific Postal Union (APPU), the League of Arab States (LAS), the Pan-African Postal Union (PAPU), the Postal Union of the Americas, Spain and Portugal (PUASP), the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT), the Association of European Public Postal Operators (PostEurop), the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunication Administrations (CEPT), and the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL).

Under Resolution 58 of the ITU 2010 Plenipotentiary Conference, the RCC was given an official status at the ITU as one of the six main regional organizations of telecommunications. A great achievement of the joint work by the Communication Administrations of the RCC member states at the ITU 2002 Plenipotentiary Conference may be considered adoption of Resolutions on ITU using six official languages on an equal footing, Russian included, as of January 1, 2005. Thus, the RCC won the right to participate in the work of the ITU as an equal member together with the other five regional organizations, which considerably improved the opportunities of the RCC member states in tackling the more difficult issues at future international forums.

The nomination of candidates for the post of ITU Secretary General, and also candidates for the ITU Council was discussed at the Council of RCC Communication Administration heads.

To sum up, it should be said that Russia made an invaluable contribution to the diverse work of the ITU throughout its existence. Thanks to our activity, standards are adopted, and regulations are worked upon to form the basis of high-level international treaties. Experts from Russia work in virtually all ITU sectors, did and do head study groups, and act as SG vice chairs of all the three lines.

Russia has every reason to propose its candidates for any ITU posts, and this is no vain ambition, but a perfectly justified working necessity.


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