Standardisation in ICT: Current Economic Perspectives

This paper, published as part of ETSI’s book ‘ICT Shaping the World’, considers current economic perspectives on standards. Standards can be defined as technical specifications that maybe adhered to by a producer, either tacitly or as a result of a formal agreement.  Standards may be developed by national standards bodies, regional bodies such as ETSI and global partnerships such as 3GPP (which includes ETSI as a member).  Standards bodies are not the only source of standards, with market processes creating de-facto standards and proprietary standards.  Standards may also compete, for example the initial competition between Blu-ray and HD DVD.  Finally, there may be a complementary relationship between formal and consortia standardisation.
Standards play a key role in the diffusion and use of ICT, for example, standards underpin the Internet (and increasingly internet applications), wireless systems including WiFi and 3G and Next Generation fixed core and access technologies including GPON.  In relation to wireless technology harmonisation of services in specific frequency bands may also apply in addition to standards harmonisation may be defined in ITU-R via the World Radiocommunications Conference process, CEPT and EC regulations.