-------Johan Hjelm---------

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Johan Hjelm
Nippon Ericsson KK, Ericsson
Research Applications Research Group
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Read more about my recent book at

Comments about standards

Standards are needed to make sure we have a minimum level of functions in the products we buy, and they are needed to make sure products are not dangerous, and work together. There is clearly a need for standards - even if the process sometimes goes overboard, such as for the curvature of cucumbers. More pertinent, however, is to ask: Why are there so many standards bodies? Different cultures have different attitudes. In some countries, even governement standardization is anathema. Sometimes even the loudest opponents have to bow to facts, for instance in the case of the ITU. There is only one world, and if international calls are to be possible, there has to be standards. The process of governement standardization is slow, and by getting together, companies can sometimes bring research out of universities much faster. This benefits the public, since new products which perform better and interoperate emerge at a faster rate. The process is good when it leads to new products and services.

Sometimes it is misused. Sometimes the consortia do not fill any meaningful function other than allow companies to watch each other, or worse, to perpetuate a technology from a university without commercial interest. Clear division of roles is required for standardization to work.

In the mobile Internet, this becomes even more pronounced. Not only do two very different cultures meet head-on (some would say clash) - that of the IETF and the telecommunications world. Industry consortia meet governement, and several industry consortia collide. In some ways, it is a mess. Yet it often sorts itself out. How, I will talk about in my presentation.

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