7 Questions With Houlin Zhao

Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the ITUInterview with Houlin Zhao
January 19, 2020

Talking Technology Trends with ITU’s Secretary General

  1. What is ITU’s mission?

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). We are committed to connecting the world. We work to bring the benefits of ICTs to everyone, everywhere.

Our global membership includes 193 Member States and over 900 companies, universities, and international and regional organizations. Our members come together on the neutral platform provided by ITU to broker the international agreements necessary to shared technological advance.

ITU coordinates the global allocation of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbital positions. ITU standards are critical to the operation of today’s optical, radio and satellite networks. And we also assist developing countries in the application of advanced ICTs, helping to bridge development divides as well as gender divides.

  1. How does ITU participate in the submarine cable market?

Standardization remains central to ITU’s value proposition. The submarine telecoms industry participates in the development of ITU international standards for the design, construction, deployment, and operation and maintenance of submarine telecoms systems.

International standards provide the technical foundations of global markets. They create efficiencies enjoyed by all market players, efficiencies and economies of scale that ultimately result in lower costs to producers and lower prices to consumers.

And by supporting backward compatibility, international standards enable next-generation technologies to interwork with previous technology generations. At a time when investment in ICT infrastructure is critical, this protects our past investments while creating the confidence to continue investing in our digital future.

  1. Is ITU currently involved with any new submarine cable projects?

Our latest standardization project for submarine communications is addressing transversely compatible DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing) applications for repeatered submarine telecoms systems. This project is also covering the characterization and commissioning of ‘open cable networks’, a shift towards the separation of dry and wet plant procurement.

We also see considerable potential for submarine cables to support climate action.

Submarine cables could form the basis of a global real-time ocean observation network. This network would be capable of providing earthquake and tsunami warnings as well as data on ocean climate change and circulation. Equipping cable repeaters with climate and hazard-monitoring sensors – creating ‘Science Monitoring And Reliable Telecommunications (SMART) cables’ – would yield data of great value to climate science, disaster warning and the future of our oceans. Realizing this vision is the primary objective of the ITU/WMO/UNESCO-IOC Joint Task Force on SMART Cable Systems, a multidisciplinary body established in 2012.

To continue reading the rest of this article, please read it in Issue 110 of the SubTel Forum magazine here on page 14.