Telecommunication Union (ITU; French: Union
Internationale des Télécommunications (UIT)), originally the
International Telegraph Union (French: Union Télégraphique
Internationale), is a specialized agency of the
United Nations (UN)
that is responsible for issues that concern information and
communication technologies. It is the oldest among all the
15 specialised agencies of UN.
The ITU coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum,
promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits,
works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing
world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide
technical standards. The ITU is active in areas including broadband
Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and
maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology,
convergence in fixed-mobile phone,
Internet access, data, voice, TV
broadcasting, and next-generation networks. The agency also organizes
worldwide and regional exhibitions and forums, such as ITU Telecom
World, bringing together representatives of government and the
telecommunications and ICT industry to exchange ideas, knowledge and
ITU, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a member of the United Nations
Development Group, and has 12 regional and area offices in
the world. ITU has been an intergovernmental public–private
partnership organization since its inception. Its membership includes
193 Member States and around 800 public and private sector companies,
and academic institutions as well as international and regional
telecommunication entities, known as Sector Members and Associates,
which undertake most of the work of each Sector.
2 ITU sectors
3 Legal framework of ITU
5 Directors and Secretaries-General of ITU
6.1 Regional groupings
7 World Summit on the Information Society
8 World Conference on International
Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12)
8.1 Changes to international telecommunication regulations
8.2 Proposed changes to the treaty and concerns
8.3 WCIT-12 conference participation
9 See also
ITU was formed on 17 May 1865, in Paris, at the International
Telegraph Convention; this makes it one of the oldest
intergovernmental organizations in the
world. The International
Radiotelegraph Union was unofficially established at the first
International Radiotelegraph Convention in 1906. Both were merged into
Telecommunication Union in 1932. ITU
United Nations specialized agency in 1947.
The ITU comprises three sectors, each managing a different aspect of
the matters handled by the Union, as well as ITU Telecom.
The sectors were created during the restructuring of ITU at its 1992
Radio communication (ITU-R)
Established in 1927 as the International
Radio Consultative Committee
or CCIR (from its French name "Comité consultatif international pour
la radio"), this sector manages the international radio-frequency
spectrum and satellite orbit resources. In 1992, the CCIR became the
Standardisation was the original purpose of ITU since its inception.
Established in 1956 as the International Telephone and Telegraph
Consultative Committee or CCITT (from its French name "Comité
consultatif international téléphonique et télégraphique"), this
sector standardizes global telecommunications (except for
radio). In 1993, the CCITT became the ITU-T.
Established in 1992, this sector helps spread equitable, sustainable
and affordable access to information and communication technologies
ITU Telecom organizes major events for the world's ICT community.
A permanent General Secretariat, headed by the Secretary General,
manages the day-to-day work of the Union and its sectors.
Legal framework of ITU
Telecommunication Union – 100th anniversary. U.S.
Telecommunication Union – anniversary 125 years.
Post of USSR, 1990.
Telecommunications Union, 1977 Postage Stamp from
Telecommunication Union – anniversary 150 years.
Post of Azerbaijan, 2015.
The basic texts of the ITU are adopted by the ITU
Plenipotentiary Conference. The founding document of the
ITU was the 1865 International Telegraph Convention, which has since
been amended several times and is now entitled the "Constitution and
Convention of the International
Telecommunication Union". In addition
to the Constitution and Convention, the consolidated basic texts
include the Optional Protocol on the settlement of disputes, the
Decisions, Resolutions and Recommendations in force, as well as the
General Rules of Conferences, Assemblies and Meetings of the
The ITU is headed by a Secretary-General, a Deputy Secretary General
and the three directors of the Bureaux, who are elected to a four-year
terms by the member states at the ITU Plenipotentiary
On 23 October 2014
Houlin Zhao was elected 19th Secretary-General of
the ITU at the Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Republic of Korea.
His four-year mandate started on 1 January 2015, and he was formally
inaugurated on 15 January 2015.
Houlin Zhao was reelected
at the 2018 Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai.
Directors and Secretaries-General of ITU
Directors of ITU
Beginning of term
End of term
1 January 1869
24 May 1872
24 May 1872
12 January 1873
23 February 1873
18 October 1889
25 February 1890
28 June 1890
25 November 1890
11 February 1897
11 March 1897
1 August 1921
2 August 1921
16 December 1927
1 February 1928
30 October 1934
Franz von Ernst
1 January 1935
31 December 1949
1 January 1950
31 December 1953
Marco Aurelio Andrada
1 January 1954
18 June 1958
Gerald C. Gross
1 January 1960
29 October 1965
Manohar Balaji Sarwate
30 October 1965
19 February 1967
Mohamed Ezzedine Mili
20 February 1967
31 December 1982
Richard E. Butler
1 January 1983
31 October 1989
1 November 1989
31 January 1999
1 February 1999
31 December 2006
1 January 2007
31 December 2014
1 January 2015
Telecommunication Union member states
Membership of ITU is open to only Member States of the United Nations,
which may join the Union as Member States, as well as to private
organizations like carriers, equipment manufacturers, funding bodies,
research and development organizations and international and regional
telecommunication organizations, which may join ITU as non-voting
There are 193 Member States of the ITU, including all UN member states
except the Republic of Palau, plus the Vatican City. The
most recent member state to join the ITU is South Sudan, which became
a member on 14 July 2011.
The Republic of China (Taiwan) was blocked from membership
by the People's Republic of China, but nevertheless received a country
code, being listed as "Taiwan, China". Palestine was
admitted as an observer in 2010.
Six Regional Offices and seven Area Offices guarantee a regional
presence of ITU:
Regional Office for CSI (in Moscow)
Africa Regional Office in Addis Ababa, with Area Offices in Dakar,
Harare and Yaoundé
Arab States Regional Office in Cairo
Asia-Pacific Regional Office in Bangkok, with Area Office in Jakarta
America Regional Office in Brasilia, with Area Offices in Bridgetown,
Santiago and Tegucigalpa.
The sixth is a Coordination office for Europe Region Europe at ITU
Other Regional organizations, connected to ITU, are:
Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT)
Arab Spectrum Management Group (ASMG)
African Telecommunications Union (ATU)
European Conference of Postal and
Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL)
Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications (RCC –
representing former Soviet republics)
World Summit on the Information Society
Main article: World Summit on the Information Society
The ITU was one of the UN agencies responsible for convening the World
Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), along with UNESCO, UNCTAD
and UNDP. The Summit was held as two conferences in 2003
and 2005 in
Geneva and Tunis, respectively, with the aim of bridging
the digital divide.
World Conference on International
In December 2012, the ITU facilitated The World Conference on
Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12) in Dubai. WCIT-12 was
a treaty-level conference to address International Telecommunications
Regulations, the international rules for telecommunications, including
international tariffs. The previous conference to update
the Regulations (ITRs) was held in
Melbourne in 1988.
In August 2012, ITU called for a public consultation on a draft
document ahead of the conference. It is claimed the
proposal would allow government restriction or blocking of information
disseminated via the internet and create a global regime of monitoring
internet communications, including the demand that those who send and
receive information identify themselves. It would also allow
governments to shut down the internet if there is the belief that it
may interfere in the internal affairs of other states or that
information of a sensitive nature might be shared.
Telecommunications ministers from 193 countries attended the
conference in Dubai.
Changes to international telecommunication regulations
The current regulatory structure was based on voice
telecommunications, when the
Internet was still in its
infancy. In 1988, telecommunications operated under
regulated monopolies in most countries. As the
Internet has grown,
organizations such as
ICANN have come into existence to manage key
resources such as
Internet addresses and Domain Names. Some outside
the United States believe that the United States exerts too much
influence over the governance of the Internet.
Proposed changes to the treaty and concerns
Current proposals look to take into account the prevalence of data
communications. Proposals under consideration would establish
regulatory oversight by the UN over security, fraud, traffic
accounting as well as traffic flow, management of
Names and IP addresses, and other aspects of the
Internet that are
currently governed either by community-based approaches such as
Internet Registries, ICANN, or largely national regulatory
frameworks. The move by the ITU and some countries has
alarmed many within the United States and within the Internet
community. Indeed, some European
telecommunication services have proposed a so-called "sender pays"
model that would require sources of
Internet traffic to pay
destinations, similar to the way funds are transferred between
countries using the telephone.
The WCIT-12 activity has been attacked by Google, which has
characterized it as a threat to the "...free and open
On 22 November 2012, the
European Parliament passed a resolution
urging member states to prevent ITU WCIT-12 activity that would
"negatively impact the internet, its architecture, operations, content
and security, business relations, internet governance and the free
flow of information online". The resolution asserted that
"the ITU [...] is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory
authority over the internet".
On 5 December 2012, the lower chamber of the United States Congress
passed a resolution opposing U.N. governance of the
Internet by a rare
unanimous 397–0 vote. The resolution warned that "... proposals have
been put forward for consideration at the [WCIT-12] that would
fundamentally alter the governance and operation of the
[and] would attempt to justify increased government control over the
Internet ...", and stated that the policy of the United States is "...
to promote a global
Internet free from government control and preserve
and advance the successful
Multistakeholder Model that governs the
Internet today." The same resolution had previously been passed
unanimously by the upper chamber of the Congress in
On 14 December 2012, an amended version of the Regulations was signed
by 89 of the 152 countries. Countries that did not sign included the
United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, India and the
United Kingdom. The head of the U.S. delegation, Terry Kramer, said
"We cannot support a treaty that is not supportive of the
multistakeholder model of Internet
governance". The disagreement
appeared to be over some language in the revised ITRs referring to ITU
roles in addressing unsolicited bulk communications, network security,
and a resolution on
Internet governance that called for government
Internet topics at various ITU forums.
Despite the significant number countries not signing, the ITU
organisation came out with a press release: "New global telecoms
treaty agreed in Dubai".
WCIT-12 conference participation
The conference itself was managed by the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU). While certain parts of civil society
and industry were able to advise and observe, active participation was
restricted to member states. The Electronic Frontier
Foundation expressed concern at this, calling for a more transparent
multi-stakeholder process. Some leaked contributions can
be found on the wcitleaks.org web site. Google-affiliated researchers
have suggested that the ITU should completely reform its processes to
align itself with the openness and participation of other
multistakeholder organizations concerned with the
American Registry for Internet Numbers
American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN)
Child Online Protection (COP)
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Internet Engineering Task Force
Internet Governance Forum
ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R)
Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D)
Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T)
Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre
Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC)
Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG)
World Information Society Day
^ "UNDG Members". Undg.org. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011.
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