WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF STANDARDISATION? GIVE SOME USEFUL EXAMPLES.
The Impact of Standardization in Media and Communication
Standardization has always been a part of most processes worldwide. Over the years, this concept has become more well-known as the number of standard development organizations (SDOs) as well as standards issued has increased continuously. In addition to the increase of standards in terms of number, the variety of these standards has increased as well. This trend is very much evident in the media and communication sector. The literatures related to standardization are mainly divided into two categories. These categories include market-based mechanisms or de facto and committee-based mechanisms or de jure.
, and (2003, ) noted that “these categories had been observed in the European and North American approaches for managing their respective wireless and data services”. While developed countries like Canada and the United States have enabled the market to be in charge of standard development, the European region on the other hand, used the committee-based mechanism as it depended on the standards developed by its European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI). Literatures have noted that the cases of both world regions stressed how the two standard mechanisms exhibit different effects on various factors such as penetration rates, service availability, price and new product development. The use of these standards is also said to result to a different impact on the price, availability, and deployment of third generation technologies.
Indeed, while standardization may be understood as the mere application of standards, its relation to media and communication resulted to more distinct outcomes. In this discussion, the process of standardization will be defined further in detail. Its importance, advantages and disadvantages to the media and communication sector will also be identified through the use of relevant literatures and examples.
A standard is defined and typically understood as technical specifications that represents a design. This design may be in the form of a technical artifact, a shape or a function. Standards are usually stored in written documents and can be deciphered by experts that are familiar with specific technologies. The process of forming and implementing standards is known as standardization. According to (2003, as cited in 2004, ), “standardization in general is employed in order to streamline or establish compatibility among applied technologies, achieve production uniformity, ensure progress and objectivity as well as to employ some form of control or hegemony over processes involved”.
In the media and communication industry, standards are categorized into two main divisions. These are the de jure and de facto standards. (2001, ) gave a more detail description of these two standard typologies. The conventional or de jure standard is the type where an official organization or body is assigned to develop and apply certain rules for technological implementation. An example of which is the American National Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII), a software development standard for encoding Roman characters.
A de facto standard on the other hand, is a type based on the success of the marketplace. An example is Windows, where its desktop operating system standards are based on its market share. Another example is the x86 microprocessor instruction set of Intel, wherein the product applies multiple implementations to different vendors. If one of the vendors developed a new means of instruction that other vendors are not implementing, this change will only be taken as a proprietary extension and used with caution. This then makes the instruction set a de facto standard ( 2001, ).
The Importance of Standardization to Media and Communication
Standardization is one of the important concepts applied in most processes worldwide. In the case of media and communication, standardization is also an important principle. As cited by (2003, as cited in 2004, ), “standardization helps in achieving uniformity in production”. (2004, ) explained that in media and communication companies that develop and manufacture various technologies, standardization is helpful when production in carried out in different work sites. Through standardization, the same end products are produced at the final phase of manufacturing.
In the past as well as in the present application, the use of standards for production uniformity is recognized as one of the effective means of achieving economies of scale, which in turn helps in increasing output predictability, reducing production costs and maintaining quality control. Operators of media and communication companies can even diversify this type of production by integrating product differentiation, resulting to greater process flexibility. This process however, requires the development and application of more varied standards ( 2004, ). With standardization, companies operating under media and communication sector are able to create and deliver uniform products and services. In addition, establishing uniform productivity through standardization helps in coordinating the activities of a company’s sub sectors even without being in a single work site or location.
(2003, as cited in 2004, ) noted that “standardization is applied by various work sectors in order to ensure that technologies used by a company or organization are all compatible”. In the development of a system supported by the Internet, it is essential that the technologies involved in developing this system are interoperable with each other. In the past, the essentiality of standardization for achieving technological compatibility has been observed in building telephone networks. In the telecommunications industry, the use of standardization in order to achieve technological compatibility was not as pronounced considering that telecommunication systems are typically monopolized.
However, many countries today have their telecommunication services privatized and operated by different owners. This industrial trend then made standardization an important global issue; companies operating in this industry have also been encouraged to find means of applying this concept into their operations. Similar to achieving uniformity in productivity, (2004, ) noted that the use of standardization for technological compatibility is also brought about by the formation of network firms. This is the terminology used to describe fragmented organizations where production procedures or activities are conducted simultaneously at different areas. In general, media and communication operators are encouraged to apply standardization as this help in achieving uniformity not only in the products that they produce but also the processes they apply to manufacture them.
Advantages of Standardization
Standardization in media and communication sector is advantageous as this led to the development of several significant technologies. Take the contribution of the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) for instance. Being an example of de jure standardization type, the standards of ETSI are based on consensus voting; in this process, “the weighted voting is based on the 71% rule of agreement, indicating that the standard will favor European producers” (, & 2003, ). It is the mission of this organization to create telecommunication standards that can be applied all over the European region. Members of this organization are made up of European companies. Some standards that had been developed by this organization had been utilized by the European Community (EC) regulations and directives ( 2001, ).
Standard on the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is among those that are worked on by ETSI. This project standard aims to create technical standards for the mobile system of the third generation that would be based on the GSM radio access technologies and core networks. Through this technology, local and international communication has taken on new heights. At present, 3G is still attempting to achieve market control; as Europe was first to adopt a standard for this technology, its media and communication industry will experience significant advantages ( 2001, ).
, and (2003, ) explained how this standardization outcome can be beneficial for the European community. The authors noted that if the standard is authorized in EC and not in North America, greater coverage within the European region will be achieved by the standard. In turn, such standardization effect may not be matched by other North American standards. This however, may work against the European community especially if the mandated standard proved to be inferior to other technologies utilized in other areas.
The increased variety of telecommunication products is also one of the essential advantages of standardization in the communication industry. This is particularly true to nations observing multiple standards, where types of products and services tend to different from one company to the next. The Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) networks for instance, is a standard that provided better and more information services as compared to the GSM networks (, & 2003, ). Consumers then benefit from this outcome as they are given varied choices and better alternatives.
In addition to creating new product features, the standardization in media and communication also led to the integration of existing technologies in order for them to operate as one system. A good example for this advantage would be the 1980s technological development trend where stand-alone equipment had been produced and distributed in great numbers ( 2000, ).
Computer Software packages, mobile phones, modems and printers are some concrete examples of this type of equipment. At that time, Microsoft developed a product called the Windows Operating System, a standard technology which in turn combined the features of used to be stand-alone equipment. Through the idea of Microsoft, the development of the telecommunication industry and the presence of standards, stand-alone products are then interconnected in order to create one total system ( 2000, ).
With this development, mobile phones can now be connected to instant messengers and electronic mailing systems. Nowadays, mobile telecommunication products can also be used to search the World Wide Web and use other Internet applications. Software programs can also be utilized through standard operating systems, either in CD or downloadable forms. In general, the development of new product features and systems through standardization benefits end users through faster and more efficient exchange, storage and presentation of information. The development of high-end product features also help in making communication a more interesting and entertaining activity.
In terms of business operations, standardization also benefits the companies operating within the communication industry. As mentioned earlier, the used of standards helps in increasing economies of scale, resulting to reduced production costs and greater product availability. As more and more consumers are using systems and products developed out of standardization, unit cost of these items naturally becomes lower as well (, & 2003, ).
(2000, ) also noted that “through the concept of standardization, companies specializing in producing certain communication technologies are able to collaborate to form a single system framework – a process typically refereed to as the wave of creative destruction”. This then helps companies in ensuring that the end users are able to achieve better products and services from media and communication developers. Once a new system is introduced to the market, the old market is basically destroyed. This in turn helps in making the industry’s business environment constantly dynamic. The dynamism of the industry is also attributed to the ability of standardization to increase technological competition, resulting to the optimization of the companies’ product creativity.
Disadvantages of Standardization
Although standardization in media and communication sector generated a number of advantages to both the company and consumers, the application of this concept in the industry have its disadvantages as well, particularly on the side of the company. For nations applying the de jure type of standardization, a single standard from the designated committee could have created a significant market size within a short period of time as compared to nations observing multiple standards. However, this type of standard may also be disadvantageous as it takes out the opportunity of other technologies from being developed ( 2000, ). Not only does this limit competition and dynamism within the industry, but this also significantly reduce the variety of technologies that end users can use.
Nations applying different types of standardization appear to experience dissimilar levels of success with some technologies. For instance, while the European Community experienced considerable local and global success with the GSM technology, the Japanese standards was only able to make it on the local level. The 2G market in the American setting on the other hand exhibited slow growth ( 2000, ). While this example clearly indicates that nations applying certain standards may not experience the success other companies would experience, this example shows that the impact of the de jure and de facto standards varies as well.
Standardization is an important process recognized in various industries worldwide. Within the media and communication industry, the application of both de jure and de facto standard types are observed in different nations. Like other work sectors, companies operating under this industry are driven to apply standardization policies so as to achieve uniformity in production as well establish technological compatibility. In turn, this led to the development of various new technological products and product features.
This helped in generating greater economies of scale, increasing product availability and alternatives as well as promoting business competition. However, the application of certain types of standards may put other communication companies at a disadvantage. In particular, while single standards may result to faster establishment of a larger market, this does not promote industrial dynamism as with nations observing multiple standards. In conclusion, standardization has led to significant impacts not only to companies within the industry but to their end users as well. The media and communication industry must however be aware on how to optimize its strengths and overcome its downsides.
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