International Telecommunication Union

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International Telecommunication Union
Union internationale des télécommunications
Unión Internacional de Telecomunicaciones
Международный союз электросвязи
الاتحاد الدولي للاتصالات
Flag of ITU.svg
Flag of the ITU
Formation17 May 1865
TypeSpecialized Agency
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersGeneva, Switzerland
Hamadoun Touré
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"ITU" redirects here. For other uses, see ITU (disambiguation).
International Telecommunication Union
Union internationale des télécommunications
Unión Internacional de Telecomunicaciones
Международный союз электросвязи
الاتحاد الدولي للاتصالات
Flag of ITU.svg
Flag of the ITU
Formation17 May 1865
TypeSpecialized Agency
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersGeneva, Switzerland
Hamadoun Touré
Monument in Bern, Switzerland. The text reads: "Union Télégraphique Internationale fondée à Paris en 1865 sur l'initiative du gouvernement français. Érigé par décision de l'Union Télégraphique prise à la conférence internationale de Lisbonne en 1908." (In English: "International Telegraph Union founded at Paris in 1865 on the initiative of the French government. [This monument] erected by a decision of the Telegraph Union made at the international conference at Lisbon in 1908.")

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), originally the International Telegraph Union (French: Union Internationale des Télécommunications), is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies.[1]

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.

ITU 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 technology.

ITU, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a member of the United Nations Development Group.[2] ITU has been an intergovernmental public-private partnership organization since its inception. Its membership includes 193 Member States and around 700 public and private sector companies as well as international and regional telecommunication entities, known as Sector Members and Associates, which undertake most of the work of each Sector.[3]


ITU was formed in 1865 at the International Telegraph Convention. ITU became a United Nations specialized agency in 1947.

ITU sectors[edit]

The ITU comprises three sectors, each managing a different aspect of the matters handled by the Union, as well as ITU Telecom.[4] The sectors were created during the restructuring of ITU at its 1992 Plenipotentiary Conference.[5]

Radiocommunication (ITU-R)
Managing the international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources is at the heart of the work of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R).
Standardization (ITU-T)
Standardization was the original purpose of ITU when it was founded. This sector remains responsible for global telecommunications standards, except for radio.[5] Prior to 1992 it was known as the International Telephone and Telegraph Consultative Committee or CCITT (from its French name "Comité consultatif international téléphonique et télégraphique").
Development (ITU-D)
Established to help spread equitable, sustainable and affordable access to information and communication technologies (ICT).
ITU Telecom organizes major events for the world's ICT community. ITU Telecom World 2011[6] is ITU Telecom's 40th Anniversary with the first event in 1971.

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[edit]

International Telecommunication Union – anniversary 125 years. Post of USSR, 1990.

The basic texts of the ITU[7] are adopted by the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference.[8] 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 Union.[citation needed]


The ITU is headed by a Secretary-General, who is elected to a four-year term by the member states at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference.[citation needed]

At the 17th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (2006) in Antalya, Turkey, the ITU's member states elected Dr Hamadoun Touré of Mali as Secretary-General of the Union.[9] He was re-elected for a second four-year term at the 18th ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (2010) in Guadalajara, Mexico.[citation needed]

Directors and Secretaries-General of ITU[edit]

Directors of ITU
NameBeginning of termEnd of termCountry
Louis Curchod1 January 186924 May 1872Switzerland
Karl Lendi24 May 187212 January 1873Switzerland
Louis Curchod23 February 187318 October 1889Switzerland
August Frey25 February 189028 June 1890Switzerland
Timotheus Rothen25 November 189011 February 1897Switzerland
Emil Frey11 March 18971 August 1921Switzerland
Henri Étienne2 August 192116 December 1927Switzerland
Joseph Raber1 February 192830 October 1934Switzerland
Franz von Ernst1 January 193531 December 1949Switzerland
Secretaries general
Léon Mulatier1 January 195031 December 1953France
Marco Aurelio Andrada1 January 195418 June 1958Argentina
Gerald C. Gross1 January 196029 October 1965United States
Manohar Balaji Sarwate30 October 196519 February 1967India
Mohamed Ezzedine Mili20 February 196731 December 1982Tunisia
Richard E. Butler1 January 198331 October 1989Australia
Pekka Tarjanne1 November 198931 January 1999Finland
Yoshio Utsumi1 February 199931 December 2006Japan
Hamadoun Touré1 January 200722 October 2014Mali
Houlin Zhao23 October 2014presentChina


International Telecommunication Union member states

Membership of ITU is open to governments, 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 can join ITU as non-voting Sector Members.[10]

There are 193 member states of the ITU, which includes 192 UN member states (all except Palau) and the Vatican City.[11] The most recent member state to join the ITU is South Sudan, which became a member on 14 July 2011.[12]

The Republic of China (Taiwan) was blocked from membership[citation needed] by the People's Republic of China, but nevertheless received a country code, being listed as "Taiwan, China".[13] Palestine was admitted as an observer in 2010.[14]

Regional groupings[edit]

Member states of the ITU are organized into six regional groups:

World Summit on the Information Society[edit]

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.[15] 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 Telecommunications 2012 (WCIT-12)[edit]

In December 2012, the ITU facilitated The World Conference on International 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.[16] The previous conference to update the Regulations (ITRs) was held in Melbourne in 1988.[17]

In August 2012, ITU called for a public consultation on a draft document ahead of the conference.[18] 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.[19]

Telecommunications ministers from 193 countries attended the conference in Dubai.[19]

Changes to International Telecommunication Regulations[edit]

The current regulatory structure was based on voice telecommunications, when the Internet was still in its infancy.[20] 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.[21]

Proposed Changes to the Treaty And Concerns[edit]

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 Internet Domain Names and IP addresses, and other aspects of the Internet that are currently governed either by community-based approaches such as Regional Internet Registries, ICANN, or largely national regulatory frameworks.[22] The move by the ITU and some countries has alarmed many within the United States and within the Internet community.[23][24] 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.[25][26]

The WCIT-12 activity has been attacked by Google, which has characterized it as a threat to the " and open internet."[27]

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".[28] The resolution asserted that "the ITU [...] is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory authority over the internet".[29]

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 Internet ... [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 September.[30]

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". [31][32][33] 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 participation in Internet topics at various ITU forums.[34] 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[edit]

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.[35] The Electronic Frontier Foundation expressed concern at this, calling for a more transparent multi-stakeholder process.[36] Some leaked contributions can be found on the 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 Internet.[37]

See also[edit]

International Telecommunications Union, Geneva


  1. ^ International Telecommunication Union
  2. ^ "UNDG Members". Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  3. ^ "About ITU". International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved 2011-03-20. 
  4. ^ "Sector Members, Associates and Academia". ITU. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Deutsches Institut für Normung (1998). An Introduction to Standards and Standardization. Beuth Verlag. p. 266. ISBN 9783410141495. Retrieved 15 May 2014. 
  6. ^ "Welcome to ITU TELECOM WORLD 2011 | ITU TELECOM WORLD 2011". 27 October 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Basic texts of the International Telecommunication Union". Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  8. ^ PP10contributions. "2010 Plenipotentiary Conference". Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  9. ^ "Report on election of Toure". 13 November 2006. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  10. ^ "Constitution of ITU: Chapter I – Basic Provisions". Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  11. ^ "International Telecommunication Union Member States". International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  12. ^ New Country, New Number – Country code 211 officially assigned to South Sudan ITU Pressroom, 14 July 2011
  13. ^ "ITU-T : International Numbering Resources : National Numbering Plans : China, Taiwan". 26 January 2007. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  14. ^ "Palestine ITU status". 20 October 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  15. ^ "World Summit on the Information Society". Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  16. ^ "World Conference on International Telecommunications 2012". Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  17. ^ "International Telecommunication Regulations" (PDF). Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  18. ^ "ITU opens public consultation on internet regulation treaty". 16 August 2012. Retrieved November 2012. 
  19. ^ a b "United Nations wants control of web kill switch". 12 November 2012. Retrieved November 2012. 
  20. ^ Global Internet usage
  21. ^ "Russia calls for internet revolution". 29 May 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  22. ^ Internet Society. International Telecommunication Regulations
  23. ^ Mcdowell, Robert M. (21 February 2012). "Robert McDowell:The U.N. Threat to Internet Freedom". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  24. ^ L. Gordon Crovitz (17 June 2012). "Crovitz: The U.N.'s Internet Power Grab". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  25. ^ McCullagh, Declan (7 June 2012). "CNET:U.N. could tax U.S.-based Web sites, leaked docs show<". CNET. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  26. ^ Trivedi, Shamik (28 June 2012). "FOR APPLE AND GOOGLE, IS AN UNAVOIDABLE U.N. 'TAX' COMING?". Tax Notes Today – 2012 TNT 126-5. 
  27. ^ "Google attacks UN net conference". BBC News. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2012. 
  28. ^ "European Parliament warns against UN internet control". BBC News. 22 November 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  29. ^ "European Parliament resolution on the forthcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) of the International Telecommunication Union, and the possible expansion of the scope of international telecommunication regulations". 22 November 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  30. ^ "House approves resolution to keep Internet control out of UN hands". The Hill. 5 December 2012. 
  31. ^ "U.S. Rejects Telecommunications Treaty". The New York Times. 14 December 2012. 
  32. ^ "Japan, West snub rules for Net curbs". Japan Times. 16 December 2012. 
  33. ^ "WCIT-12 Final Acts Signatories". International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  34. ^ Siy, Sherwin. (14 December 2012) On the Results at the WCIT. Public Knowledge. Retrieved on 28 April 2014.
  35. ^ "Convention of the ITU". Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  36. ^ "EFF Joins Coalition Denouncing Secretive WCIT Planning Process". 17 May 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  37. ^ "Ryan/Glick: The ITU Treaty Negotiations: A Call for Openness and Participation". Retrieved 12 October 2012. 

External links[edit]

ITU headquarters, Geneva