Challenges Facing Developing Countries
Information document B Interoperability problems in the developing countries 1. Introduction1 2. Developing countries2 3. CIS and Europe4 4. Asia-Pacific5 5. Americas8 6. Africa10 Introduction The ITU has made significant commitments to developing countries in a series of instruments: • Article 17 of the ITU Constitution that the functions of ITU-T are to be performed “bearing in mind the particular concerns of the developing countries”; • Resolution 123 (Rev.
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Antalya, 2006) on bridging the standardization gap; and Resolution 139 (Antalya, 2006) which invites Member States to implement rapidly Resolution 37 (Rev. Doha, 2006) of the World Telecommunication Development Conference on bridging the digital divide. Between the developing and developed countries there is a general digital divide of which one part is the standardization gap. This is recognised in Resolution 44 (Johannesburg, 2008) as having three dimensions: • The disparity of voluntary standardization; • The disparity of mandatory technical regulations; and • The disparity of conformity assessment.
Resolution 76 (Johannesburg, 2008) on conformance and interoperability testing considered: • that some countries, especially the developing countries, have not yet acquired the capacity to test equipment and provide assurance to consumers in their countries; and • that increased confidence in the conformance of information and communication technologies (ICT) equipment with ITU-T Recommendations would increase the chances of end-to-end interoperability of equipment from different manufacturers, and would assist developing countries in the choice of solutions. Noted: the need to assist developing countries in facilitating solutions which will exhibit interoperability and reduce the cost of systems and equipment procurement by operators, particularly in the developing countries, whilst improving product quality; Resolved: • assist developing countries in identifying human and institutional capacity-building and training opportunities in conformity and interoperability testing; • assist developing countries in establishing regional or subregional conformity and interoperability centres suitable to perform conformity and interoperability testing as appropriate;
Instructed the Director of TSB: • to conduct exploratory activities in each region in order to identify and prioritize the problems faced by developing countries related to achieving interoperability of ICT equipment and services; The following sections review the issues of developing countries then the interoperability problems identified by developing countries in the different regions: CIS & Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Americas, Africa and the Arab states. Developing countries The ITU holds developing countries to include three specific categories: Least Developed Countries (LDCs); • Small Island Developing States (SIDS); and • Countries with Economies in Transition (EIT). It does not define these terms, but uses the definitions provided by the General Assembly of the United Nations and by its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  Least Developed Countries (LDCs) can be identified by the following three criteria: • Low-income, a three-year average of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita (under US$ 745 for inclusion, above US$ 900 for graduation); A composite Human Assets Index (HAI) based on: percentage of population undernourished, mortality rate for children aged five years or under, the secondary school enrolment ratio and adult literacy rate; and • A composite Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI) based on: population size, remoteness, merchandise export concentration, share of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in GDP, homelessness owing to natural disasters, instability of agricultural production, and instability of exports of goods and services.
While there is considerable overlap between LDCs and SIDS, the latter face significant additional problems to achieve sustainable development, because of their small populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters and excessive dependence on international trade. The growth and development of SIDS have been disadvantaged by high transportation and communication costs (e. g. , use of satellites in the absence of undersea cables), disproportionately expensive public administration and infrastructure (due to their small size) and the absence of opportunities to create economies of scale. 2] Countries with Economies In Transition (EIT) are those moving from a centrally planned economy to a free market. This requires economic liberalization, the removal of price controls, the lowering of trade barriers, the restructuring and privatization of financial and industrial sectors. It is usually characterised by the creation of new institutions, including private enterprises taking on activities previously performed by the state and new instruments for state governance, such as a national regulatory authority for telecommunications.
In the 1990s, these comprised the countries formerly members of the CMEA, some of which are now members of the WTO and the EU. The problems faced in EITs have included the absence of a constructive policy framework, the slowness of the establishment of the network infrastructure, the training of people to use it and to exploit commercially the information and knowledge that it makes available. The issue of interoperability has become more important as countries deploy e-government systems. In order to provide high-quality services to citizens it is important that services can be accessed from the widest possible range of equipment.
UNDP has published an e-primer on e-government, setting out the vision and value of interoperability and the steps required to achieve this. It explains the value of e-government interoperability frameworks, the parties that need to be involved and are the critical success factors. InfoDev has an eGovernment Handbook for developing countries. Despite the enormous progress made in bridging the digital divide and, in particular, the standardization gap, there remain significant problems in terms of conformance and interoperability due to: Lack of human capacity and of training opportunities; and • Weak institutional systems for: o Standardization, o Testing, o Certification, and o Market surveillance. However, the challenges are far from uniform, requiring careful assessment of regional and national circumstances and experiences. CIS and Europe The European Union has legal provisions that directly address interoperability and empower regulatory authorities to ensure the interoperability of systems (see information document C).
For example, the EC adopted DVB-H as a common standard for mobile television to achieve interoperability throughout Europe. In 2005, the ITU published a study entitled Towards Interoperable eHealth for Europe with the Telemedicine Alliance. A previous study had identified interoperability as a major obstacle to the implementation of eHealth, which the second report addressed in the form of a strategic plan for trans-national eHealth interoperability. Its aim is to assist stakeholders at all levels in taking action to achieve real and sustainable interoperability. 3] As part of its eHealth Action Plan, the European Commission has adopted a Recommendation on cross-border interoperability of electronic health record systems (2008/594/EC). This will ensure that electronic health record systems interoperate, allowing health professionals from another country to access vital patient information from a home doctor and hospital, improving the quality and safety of medical care. The International Virtual Laboratory for Enterprise Interoperability (INTEROP-VLab) emerged from research projects funded by the European Commission.
Its mission is to consolidate, develop and maintain the European research community in the domain of Enterprise Interoperability. In the United Kingdom, a survey of IEEE 802. 11b/g Wi-Fi usage for the Office of Communications (OFCOM) found a wide variety of problems, many due to causes other than spectrum (e. g. , wired Internet and device configuration errors). Spectrum issues tended to be interference between devices in the 2. 4 GHz ISM band, rather than congestion.
However, in the centre of London demands on the band were higher than elsewhere and users experienced both interference and congestion. Interference between different types of radio device lead to a proposal for a certification scheme with a broad ‘2. 4 GHz friendly’ logo rather than the conventional ‘Wi-Fi-friendly’ mark, to help drive acceptance of innovative technologies in that band. Asia-Pacific One of the poorer of the Asian countries was the beneficiary of a sequence of initiatives by national and international aid programmes to assist the evelopment of its telecommunications infrastructure.  A side effect of this was that the equipment provided or purchased in the different projects were from different manufacturers, often selected by or linked to the donor agency. However, the variety of equipment could not easily be made to interoperate. The effects on the country were to increase the costs of training for its limited pool of technicians and experts (often with international travel), while it reduced the flexibility of use of the equipment.
The already limited economies of scale in this country were made worse by fragmentation across different networks and systems, raising the costs for operators and thus for citizens. Within the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity Standardization Programme (ASTAP), the Industry Relations Group (IRG) addresses the needs and concerns of operators and manufacturers. At the 11th Meeting of ASTAP in June 2006 there was a Workshop on Conformity Assessment in the APECTEL Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRA).
It was recognized that input from industry input into ASTAP and APECTEL could help to improve their operation. The IRG subsequently developed a questionnaire on type-approval and conformity assessment. Between June 2006 and February 2007, responses were obtained from 21 companies and 4 regulators, in Afghanistan, Australia, Iran, Japan, Macau SAR, Papua New Guinea, Singapore and Thailand. This identified issues in terms of: • Costs: o Mandatory in-country testing, rather than accepting certified test results from other countries, Preparation of documentation for submission to the regulator, o Testing to meet specific national standards not aligned with international standards; • Delays: o Time taken to approve a product after documents are submitted, o Testing to national standards not aligned with international standards. The survey identified actions to improve type approval process, including the recognition of certified test reports from other countries by Australia and Singapore, and limiting standards in technical regulations to international standards, avoiding national variations.
An Asia-Pacific regional compliance mark was proposed, one that would be accepted by all national authorities, without further testing or documentation. The IRG called for national authorities to accept accredited test reports from other countries in order to reduce costs and time delays in type approval. The expansion of telecommunication networks, both in geographic coverage and the range of services, in response to market demand is a continuous process for operators, especially in very rapidly growing Asian markets. Operators have two options: a) Procurement of equipment from the original vendor; or ) Procurement of the best value equipment available at the time, not necessarily from the original vendor. However, the second option is not always possible as equipment from different vendors may not be fully interoperable. The procurement of additional equipment is, therefore, constrained to be from the original vendor. The practical difficulties faced by this lack of interoperability in two types of networks are explained below. There are many proprietary implementations of Mobile Switching Centres (MSCs), Base Station Controllers (BSCs) and Base Station Transceivers (BTSs).
Although the interface between the MSC and the BSC is now considered stable, the Abis interface between BSCs and BTSs is not yet interoperable (see Figure 1). Where additional BTSs are required, in order to meet growing demand, the network operator is constrained to purchase these from the vendor whose BSCs are already deployed. Figure 1Issues related to mobile networks [pic] An operator in India has experienced interoperability issues in the expansion of its GSM network. Its planners assumed that BSCs and BTSs required to be supplied by the same vendor, due to the proprietary interface between the two.
However, the interface between the BSC and the MSC, which is an open standard, required considerable time and effort before interworking could be achieved between equipment from different vendors. Two of the essential components for Intelligent Network (IN) services are the Service Control Point (SCP) and the Service Switching Point (SSP), the latter is normally part of the switch or local exchange (see Figure 2). Consequently, whenever the operator needs to deploy a new switch it has to be purchased from a single supplier, to ensure interoperability with existing infrastructure.
Figure 2Issues related to fixed Intelligent Network (IN) [pic] An Indian operator found that SCPs failed to interwork with SSPs from different manufacturers. This issue is considered critical in view of the regulatory requirement to interconnect INs of different service providers. In April 2009, at the CTO/ITU-T Forum on NGN Standardization in Sri Lanka, the issue of non-interoperability was raised. Rajeshwar Dayal from the Indian Department of Telecommunications (DoT), identified the need for interoperability between and within NGNs (see slides).
The following month at the ITU Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Asia and Pacific Region, India proposed that ITU prepare a reference document containing interoperability requirements at the equipment level to help smooth the implementation of NGNs. An NGN Pilot Project by the Iran Telecom Research Center (IRTC) identified a number of problems associated with NGNs supplied by: Alcatel, Huawei, Siemens and ZTE (presented at ITU Kaleidoscope).  This acknowledged that NGN was not yet a mature technology and therefore subject to interim problems, that should eventually be eliminated.
Tests were conducted initially between equipment of a single vendor, then between different vendors. Problems were identified with the implementations of the ITU-T G. 729 codec and ITU-T H. 248, plus difficulties with the call servers from one manufacturer not being able to control the access, media or signaling gateways of other vendors. The problems had been caused by some vendors not implementing standards completely or having done so imprecisely, while some standards were found to contain ambiguities. Americas
In the USA, Section 256 of the Communications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to establish procedures to oversee coordinated network planning by providers of telecommunications services. The Act also authorizes the FCC to participate in standards organizations working on network interconnectivity. It is advised by the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council (NRIC), which makes recommendations to ensure, under “all reasonably foreseeable circumstances”, interoperability of networks, including reliability, robustness, security and interoperability of communications networks.
One of the major issues addressed by NRIC in recent years has been to ensure the interoperability of enhanced services for emergency calls (i. e. , to 911). Interoperability for e-government has been addressed by the Chief Information Officers Council (CIO). Concerns over problems of the non-interoperability of emergency services communication systems became a matter of public concern, following possibly avoidable deaths of firemen in the collapse of the New York World Trade Center on 9th September 2001 and again after Hurricane Katrina. 6] The US Congress called for work to resolve interoperability problems in emergency response communications.  To achieve the political objectives, Project 25 (P25) was established as a development process for the design, manufacture and evaluation of interoperable digital two-way wireless communications products for public safety services. The suite of P25 standards is administered by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and consists of the following interfaces: • Common Air Interface (CAI); • Inter-RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI); • Fixed/Base Station Subsystem Interface (FSSI); • Console Subsystem Interface (CSSI); Network Management Interface; • Data Network Interface; • Subscriber Data Peripheral Interface; and • Telephone Interconnect Interface. The P25 Compliance Assessment Program (CAP) is a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security’s Command, Control and Interoperability Division (CID), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), suppliers and the emergency services. It seeks to: • Ensure that emergency response technologies meet the needs of practitioners; • Assist officials in making informed purchasing decisions; • Provide vendors with a method of testing equipment for P25 compliance; and Support the migration to standards-based communications systems. As of May 2008, eight private laboratories had been accredited, using ISO 17025, for P25 conformance testing. These can test equipment against standards that ensure radios and other equipment interoperate – regardless of manufacturer – enabling emergency responders to exchange critical communications. Additionally, there two non-governmental bodies as: • Emergency Interoperability Consortium (EIC); and • OASIS Emergency Interoperability. These work on the development of appropriate standards. Anatel has identified problems with fixed network equipment in: Incompatibilities with: o xDSL: between chipsets in Central Office (CO) and Customer Premises Equipment (CPE), and o GPON: between Optical Line Terminals (OLT) and Optical Network Units (ONU); • Interoperability problems between: o softswitches using SIP and SIP-I standards, o PABX-IP equipment and NGN, and o Call Agent (CA) and Media Gateway (MG), when using the T. 38 fax with MEGACO protocol. Similarly with mobile networks, it has found problems with Inter-RAT (Radio Access Technology): • Voice and data failures going from 2G on 1,800 MHz to 3G on 850 MHz and vice versa; On registration, instead of performing a type 02 a type 00 location update was performed; • With 2G, on moving from 900 MHz to 1800 MHz and vice versa there were voice call interruptions; • Despite automatic network search for 3G on 850MHz band, first tried a type 00 location update with 2G on 1800 MHz; • A loss of network signal with 2 or 3G on any frequency band, terminals failed to repeat network registration when in an area with network signal; and • Where there was no roaming enabled, but a secondary IMSI was available the SIM card terminal did not automatically restart the application for the second IMSI.
Africa Much of the ICT equipment in developing countries is old, but has yet to be withdrawn from use, because of limited capital to purchase replacements. The interfaces and protocols of such systems are not able to communicate with any modern systems that are more complex and sophisticated. It required the use of gateways which reduces functionality and increases costs. For example, one international operator wishing to provide lower cost international connectivity into a NE African country had to provide a special gateway to what it considered obsolete technology.
Unlike in the developed world, most African countries do not have laboratories to test whether or not communications equipment and systems conform to the required international, regional and national standards, making interoperability testing a challenge. Exceptions include Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia (see information document I). Rwanda has seen a profusion of very low-cost GSM handsets. Like India, many of these have proved to be counterfeit, with no proof that they comply with international safety standards or that they conform to network standards and interoperate without causing problems.
Tanzania has identified a number of issues shown in Table 1. Table 1Interoperability issues in Tanzania |SN |Item |Positive |Concern | |1 |Antennae have different standards |Incentive to roll out in |Joined networks instead of single network that | | |for different vendor and types |underserved areas |result in duplication of investment and operational | | |e. . space diversity, combining, |Increased employment |expenditure e. g. spare stock, training | | |polar | | | |2 |New technology (upgrade) |Increased competition |Delays or not possible to access some application or| | |compatibility with old versions |Service differentiation |documents e. g Windows 2003 to 2007 or VISTA. | |but not vice versa | |Forced to change from R2 signalling for circuit | | | | |(packet) switching and later likely to IP else miss | | | | |VAS applications | | | | |Environment issue e. g.
Exposure or Recycle of | | | | |absolute equipment such as antennae | |3 |Pre-paid and online payment |Easy customer entry and |Revenue stream authenticity | | |(credit card) |consumer choice of services |National Security issues | | | | |e. g. satellite phones | |4 |Liberalization of International |Competitive tariffs |Cyber security. | |gateways. |Improved quality of services |With multiple gateways how ccTLD and Internet | | |VSAT, Earth stations, submarine | |exchanges are to be on optimal use. | | |cables and optic fibre | |Incoming international traffic revenue loss? | |5 |Transmission systems. PDH and SDH |Incentive to roll out broadband|Different control and operational procedure (Central| | |and mono mode and DWDM optic fibre|data |operation management systems).
Complex and costly | | |Core switch (TeS, NGN) not able to|Possible sharing of capacity |integration for various vendors | | |parent various media gateways, RSU|(infrastructure) |Need to share customer information e. g. from EIR or | | |(xDSL) |Increased employment |blacklist and fraudsters. | | |Access interface V5. 1 and V5. 2 | |Difficult or too costly to integrate various vendor | | | | |equipment in the network.
While specializing to a | | | | |single vendor also ties to limited QS, services and| | | | |costly upgrades. | |6 |Revenue assurance systems |Increase Customer satisfaction |Integration of modules for fixed, GSM and CDMA are | | | |Quality of service monitoring |likely to be too costly | | | | |Integration of data and voice |
Few countries in Africa have in place the necessary accreditation systems and technical regulations need to provide a framework for the granting of certificates and licenses for the provision of communications services or the supply of telecommunications equipment. There is a general lack of expertise and human capacity in standardization. African countries have been less able than developed countries to participate in and to influence standards making processes.
One consequence of this is that they have been much less involved in the work of devising conformity and interoperability tests and then of conducting the tests of equipment and services. Training in standardization and testing has been insufficient and when available been expensive or involved travel. This has resulted in a lack of understanding of test results when they are submitted from accredited laboratories. In particular, there is a lack of understanding of international standards concerning the implementation of interoperability of ICT systems and devices.
The large and growing number of producers of standards is seen as confusing, especially since the standards and the resulting equipment and interfaces are mostly not interoperable. As with the Indian example, African operators have encountered problems interoperating BSCs and BTSs from different manufacturers. Some types of equipment conforming to international standards are intended to operate in specific radio frequency bands, but this spectrum may not be available in Africa.
This has made the efficient use of radio spectrum one of the key challenges African countries confront and which has brought about interoperability problems. The Southern Africa Telecommunications Association (SATA), a group of fixed incumbent operators, has identified specific interoperability challenges (see Table 1), relating to NGN equipment. Table 2Southern African interoperability challenges (Source: SATA) Equipment supplier and type |Interoperability problems with | | |Equipment Supplier |Equipment Type | |Huawei Technologies SoftSwitch |Nokia Siemens Networks |Trunk Gateway | |Huawei Technologies SoftSwitch |ZTE |CDMA Equipment (Fax problems) | |Huawei Technologies SoftSwitch |Alcatel-Lucent |WiMAX WAC | |There are several interoperability issues between the BOSS and the Element Managers from different suppliers. | |The standard Northbound interfaces between EM and the OSS are not always open, or the supplier is not willing to open | |those interfaces. | In summary, Africa faces the following problems: • Increased supply of poor quality equipment; • Difficulties in the selection of interoperable equipment from a wide range of vendors; • Lack of testing centres, facilities and trained professionals; • Lack of national or regional laws and regulations; and • Lack of understanding of ITU-T Recommendations, the conformance tests and their results. ———————– 1] Specific tasks have been assigned by the United Nations to the Office of the High Representative for the LDCs, Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and SIDS (OHRLLS).  The telecommunications needs of SIDS are being studied by ITU-D under Question 23/2.  See, for example, European Connected Health Leadership Summit ‘A Manifesto for Connected Health’  Permission has not yet been granted by the country to disclose its name.  http://ieeexplore. ieee. org/ielx5/4534704/4542234/04542262. pdf? arnumber=4542262 and http://ieeexplore. ieee. org/ielx5/4115171/4115172/04115219. pdf? isnumber=4115172  Jerry Brito (2007) Sending out an S. O. S. public safety communications interoperability as a collective action problem. Federal Communications Law Journal 59 (3) 457-92.  Senate Report 109-088. Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2006. House Report 109-241. Making Appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2006, and for Other Purposes. ———————– BTS of Vendor A BSC of Vendor A MSC of Vendor A BTS of Vendor B Proprietary/Non-interoperable interface SSP of Vendor B Switch /LE Calling Card User Switch /LE SCP SSP SSP SCP of Vendor A SSP of Vendor A Called Subscriber Proprietary/Non-interoperable interface