Date: 18 October 1999

IEC’s first ITA agreement provides single mechanism to multimedia service providers and end-users

The first Industry Technical Agreement (ITA) ever produced has now come to completion under the auspices of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The Open Platform Initiative for Multimedia Access (OPIMA), a consortium comprising companies and organisations at the forefront of multimedia technologies, agreed in September 1998 to operate under the IEC’s ITA mechanism. OPIMA’s objective to bring a specification to market in one year has been fully met.

This ITA is a significant development for the industry and represents a breakthrough in the management of multimedia services. This watershed agreement will have major implications for the end-users. In essence, this means that the OPIMA platform could provide a single mechanism enabling content management and protection between multimedia services providers and consumers. This means the end of a confusing and expensive situation where consumers who want to access multimedia services from several providers are forced to have multiple terminals with different interfaces – televisions, decoders, radios and personal computers being the obvious examples.

The OPIMA specification states that "the OPIMA platform is aimed at providing value-chain participants with the ability to acquire, supply, process and consume multimedia services on a global basis in accordance with the rights associated with these services. OPIMA specifically addresses intellectual property management and protection." Consumers, service providers and hardware manufacturers are all set to benefit by from this specification.

Practically, this means that if Mr. Smith, while surfing on the Internet, decides he wants to download two songs on sale by two different providers, he won’t have to worry about incompatibilities in content protection mechanisms. This is of particular importance for consumer devices such as portable players and digital TV set-top boxes.

Another important consideration to take into account is the availability of the specification. The IEC and the OPIMA members agreed that the OPIMA specification should be available free of charge and downloadable from either the IEC web site at or from the OPIMA web site at

At the completion of the OPIMA specification, Leonardo Chiariglione, head of the Multimedia Services and Technologies Research Division of CSELT, the corporate research centre of the Telecom Italia group, commented "The availability of the OPIMA specification is an important moment for the multimedia industry. It provides a security framework on top of which content security can be guaranteed in a service-independent fashion. Multimedia service providers can now concentrate on providing services and need not be concerned with the development of a proprietary platform. OPIMA is indebted to the IEC for providing a framework – the ITA – for operation."

The IEC’s ITA is a new product which delivers industry specifications for fast-moving technology sectors in months, whereas international standards serve the more traditional industry sectors but can take years to develop. ITAs are designed to enable industry to launch new products or start production once the ITA specifications have been agreed. ITAs are different from international standards in that they do not go through the same consensus procedure and are not produced within the committee structure used for developing standards. ITAs were launched by the IEC in response to calls from industry for a new and rapid means of achieving de facto industry specifications.


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Web page created: 18 October 1999

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