The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) manages Australia's input into international telecommunications standards, as required by section 8 of the Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005. This role includes leading Australia's delegations to higher-level International Telecommunication Union Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) meetings, including the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) and the Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group (TSAG).
The ACMA also administers the Australian National Study Group process which is the primary vehicle for developing Australian input into the making of international standards for telecommunications.
The ACMA's involvement in international telecommunications standards setting also plays an important role in assisting Australia to fulfil its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The WTO requirements aim to ensure that technical regulations, standards, testing and certification systems do not create unnecessary obstacles to international trade.
Australia is a signatory to a number of Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRAs). MRAs enable conformity assessment (i.e. testing, inspection and certification) of specified products intended for export to the other party's territory to be undertaken in the country of export. This has the effect of reducing non-tariff (technical and regulatory) barriers to trade between the countries. Regulatory authorities in both countries recognise test reports and certificates issued by Conformity Assessment Bodies - bodies deemed by both countries competent to assess products as conforming to the standards of the other country - to demonstrate that products meet their domestic regulatory requirements. The main aim of the MRAs is to promote trade liberalisation and economic cooperation with co-signatories to these arrangements.
International Telecommunication Union
The ACMA participates in various ITU fora. The three Sectors of the ITU - Radiocommunications (ITU-R), Telecommunication Standardization (ITU-T) and Telecommunication Development (ITU-D) - work today to build and shape tomorrow's networks and services. Their activities cover all aspects of telecommunication, from setting standards that facilitate interworking of equipment and systems on a global basis to adopting operational procedures for the vast and growing array of wireless services and designing programmes to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world.
Each of the three ITU Sectors works through conferences and meetings, where members negotiate the agreements which serve as the basis for the operation of global telecommunication services.
World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly
The ITU's WTSA defines general policy for the ITU-T. It is also responsible for establishing the ITU-T's Study Groups and approving the study group four-year work programs. The WTSA is held every four years, with the most recent Assembly concluded in November 2012.
Telecommunication Standardization Advisory Group
The ITU's TSAG is responsible for reviewing the priorities, programs, operations, financial matters and strategies for the ITU-T. It also establishes and provides guidance to the ITU-T Study Groups (see below). The ACMA is responsible for managing Australian technical input into the ITU-T.
Telecommunication Standardization Study Groups
ITU–T Study Groups (ITU-T SGs) are responsible for developing recommendations (voluntary standards) about telecommunications standardisation matters. The focus and work of the ITU-T SGs is assigned at four yearly WTSA meetings or by the ITU's TSAG (see above).
Responsibility for Australia's participation in the ITU-T SGs is currently divided between the ACMA and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
National Study Groups
Australian input into international telecommunications standards making activities is developed through a system of National Study Groups (NSGs). NSG responsibilities include participating in international telecommunications standards committees and assisting the ACMA to keep Australian industry informed of global telecommunications standards development activities. NSG convenors are appointed by the ACMA.
User Involvement in International Standards-Making
The ACMA recognises the important contribution users can make in ensuring that the development of telecommunications standards and equipment takes account of the needs of users of that equipment and to this end, takes opportunities to work with consumer and user groups.
The Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) is a regional telecommunications organisation whose aims include ensuring that the development of telecommunications services is balanced with the region's socioeconomic development and strengthening cooperation in the planning and management of telecommunications services in the Asia-Pacific region. The APT membership includes members (of which Australia is one), associate members, affiliate members and participating companies.
Mutual Recognition Arrangements
Australia has technical MRAs with numerous countries. The ACMA participates in these MRAs where they are relevant to ACMA's technical regulation. Further information on MRA's can be found on the MRA page.
There are a number of forums and organisations that have an interest in the development of technical standards and specifications for particular communications technologies and services. Standards development may occur nationally, at a regional level (for example, in the Asia-Pacific region, through the APT) or internationally, primarily through ITU-T and industry forums and organisations with an interest in communications standards development.
For more information about these matters, please contact the International Regulatory Section.